Preterm labor and delivery happens between the 20 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, can be dangerous for a baby. If a baby is born premature, it’s not fully developed and may not survive outside of the mother’s womb. If the baby does survive, there can be short- and long-term consequences.
Preterm babies have been quoted to survive as early as 23 to 24 weeks, but about 10% of the babies are able to survive at that early gestational age. Each successive week the baby is in the womb, the survival percentage increases. By 28 weeks, there’s generally quoted 90% survival in tertiary care medical centers with high level special care nurseries, but of those survivors, about 10%-15% may have some significant disability with permanent resultant injury from this event. Some of the more severe complications can include cerebral palsy, mental retardation, blindness, chronic lung problems, brain bleeds and gastrointestinal issues to name a few.
There are medical treatments that can help optimize the infant’s outcome if the woman is imminently in preterm labor or has a high risk of having a preterm birth. Giving the mother antenatal steroids, which cross the placenta to the fetus, can help accelerate fetal maturation and has been shown to significantly decrease complications in babies that are born preterm.
Additionally, when a pregnancy is under 32 weeks and delivery appears imminent, giving magnesium sulfate infusion to the mother has also been shown to decrease cerebral palsy rates. Therefore, there are some maternal treatments we administer if we believe someone is likely to deliver preterm to optimize the neonatal outcome. As of now, there are no known medicines that have been proven to stop preterm birth once it has started, but we can temporize the process for about 48-72 hours in order to administer certain medicines described above before delivery to improve the infant’s outcome.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!