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The rise of preterm births can be attributed to intervention from medical professionals

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Posted January 19, 2018

There is time for everything, including getting born. Preterm births may result in life-long consequences and are generally not good news for the baby and his family. However, scientists from the University of Adelaide were surprised to see what is actually driving the increasing number of preterm births in South Australia. Scientists say that it is largely intervention by medical professionals.

Preterm births are often a result of clinical intervention. Image credit: Yann Forget via Wikimedia

In the last 28 years preterm births in South Australia increased by 40 % from 5.1% in 1986 to 7.1% in 2014. The number of natural preterm births increased just slightly – from 3.5 to 3.8 %. While natural preterm births account for the majority of the total preterm births, they do not explain the increase. Scientists analysed statistics for 550,000 births in South Australia between 1986 and 2014 and found that the increase is largely caused by medical professionals ending pregnancy prematurely – this practice accounts for 80 % of the increase.

Medical professionals stop these pregnancies for seemingly good reasons – to save the baby or the mom. Usually the reasons to induce labour or performing a caesarean section are hypertension or impaired growth of the foetus. The rate of artificially ended pregnancy, resulting in a preterm birth, rose from 1.6% in 1986 to 3.2% in 2014. However, there is another side to this problem. While it is not good for a child to be born prematurely, during the same period of time the rate of stillbirths has fallen by 45%, which may indicate that clinically induced preterm births were motivated by real and important reasons. Furthermore, current lifestyle is likely to increase the rate of preterm births even more.

Professor Gus Dekker, co-author of the study, said: “Currently, more than a quarter of the South Australian pregnant population is obese or morbidly obese. Additionally, more than half are 30 years of age or older”. These factors may lead to increasing number of clinically ended pregnancy and a preterm birth. While it does often lead to health issues, it can also be a life saver as these procedures commonly prevent stillbirths. Babies born prematurely face a variety of health risks, including higher risk of type II diabetes, obesity and cardiac problems.

Hopefully, new developments in the medical science as well as care for pregnant women is going to help keep these statistics positive. But for that a more drastic change needs to happen – people should take better care of themselves, especially if they are planning to become parents.

 

Source: University of Adelaide

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