A pregnancy can be one of the most joyful moments in a couple's life. However, complications during birth can turn what is usually a joyous occasion into a scary moment fraught with danger. In some situations, both the lives of the mother and the child can be placed at risk by a number of different birth complications. When you develop a greater knowledge of how to deal with such complications before they occur, you can be better prepared if they happen to you.
One of the most common complications of birth involves preterm labor. Typically, the average expected length of a full term pregnancy is 9 months, or more accurately, 40 weeks. The majority of successful pregnancies occur within a one week window surrounding the 40 week mark. However, there are some pregnancies where the baby is not carried for the length of a full term. A preterm labor is defined as when your body attempts to deliver your baby before you have carried for a full term. Typically the cut off for labor to be defined as preterm is 37 weeks, or in other words, 3 weeks before the traditional 40 week term. There are numerous advantages to a full term pregnancy, but unfortunately, not every pregnancy lasts the optimal length for the development and health of the baby and the mother.
There are several factors that may suggest a risk of going into preterm labor, such as having contractions that seem closer, stronger, or longer than you would expect at that point in the pregnancy. When such contractions occur, you may face a risk of delivering your baby significantly earlier than you and your doctor anticipated. Preterm labor may feel differently in one woman compared to another, and from one pregnancy to another. However, in many women, going into labor before term may start out by feeling like menstrual cramping or a slight yet persistent headache. If you feel you are going into preterm labor, you should seek hospitalization and medical help as soon as possible. You will want to have medical care at hand in case any additional complications arise due to the unexpected birth. In particularly serious situations involving preterm labor, you may require either bed rest or birth suppressing medications, or both, in order to help your pregnancy last the remaining weeks so it can become a full term pregnancy.
Another common complication of birth involves a low birth weight. A low birth weight is defined as a baby who is born weighing no more than 5 pounds and 8 ounces, or 2500 grams. Approximately one out of every twelve babies born in the United States is born with a low birth weight. Babies who are born with a low birth weight face increased risks for a number of serious health problems during their first months of life, as well as disabilities that may last through childhood and into adulthood. They also face an increased risk of death.
Numerous factors can increase your chances of delivering a baby with a low birth weight, such as poor nutrition in the mother during the pregnancy; or substance use, such as cigarettes from smoking, alcohol from drinking, and illegal or legal drugs used without consulting a physician. Low birth weight can also be caused indirectly by infection with a sexually transmitted disease break-out, through other contagious diseases, or due to a lack of prenatal care. You can reduce your risks of giving birth to a baby with a low birth weight by paying extra attention to your nutritional, physical, emotional, and medical needs during your pregnancy.