What causes prematurity?

There are three main groups of factors that impact prematurity:

  1. Maternal factors:
    • preeclampsia (also known as toxemia or high blood pressure of pregnancy)
    • chronic medical illness (such as heart or kidney disease)
    • infection (such as group B streptococcus, urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, infections of the fetal/placental tissues)
    • drug use (such as cocaine)
    • abnormal structure of the uterus
    • cervical incompetence (inability of the cervix to stay closed during pregnancy)
    • previous preterm birth
  2. Factors involving the pregnancy:
    • abnormal or decreased function of the placenta
    • placenta previa (low lying position of the placenta)
    • placental abruption (early detachment from the uterus)
    • premature rupture of membranes (amniotic sac)
    • polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid)
  3. Factors involving the fetus:
    • when fetal behavior indicates the intrauterine environment is not healthy
    • multiple gestation (twins, triplets or more)

Of course, then there’s the rarely spoken of fourth… “Unexplainable preterm labor.”

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