My mother gave birth to both her children prematurely, and after listening to her stories, I remember clinging to my calendar during pregnancy, counting down the weeks until my baby could safely come into the world. Having a baby early is extremely stressful for any parent, emotionally, physically, and financially. Sadly, there’s not much families can do to prevent it. So why some babies are born premature? Researchers are trying to figure it out, so here’s what science can — and can’t — tell us about foreshortened pregnancies.
In 2016, one in 10 infants were born prematurely, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Any baby born before 37 weeks is considered premature, but babies born before 32 weeks are at great risk of serious complications, including permanent disability. Premature birth is also a leading cause of infant death, per the CDC. In an email interview with Romper, Dr. Michael Nageotte, a national expert in perinatology and Associate Chief Medical Officer at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, explains that most babies born prematurely were either induced because of a medical problem — like preeclampsia or fetal growth restriction — or born spontaneously as a result of uterine inflammation that takes days, weeks, or even longer to develop.
In the case of medically indicated preterm birth, labor is induced to protect the baby, the mother, or both. Spontaneous preterm birth, on the other hand, occurs after sudden, unexpected labor. Science still can’t…