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Why are some babies born premature?

Updated on July 16, 2017

A Story Of Hope And Triumph

Little Fighters Across The World

A small premature baby in with an oxygen mask improvised from a medication cup and dressing tape (plaster). ECWA Evangel Hospital, Jos, Nigeria.
A small premature baby in with an oxygen mask improvised from a medication cup and dressing tape (plaster). ECWA Evangel Hospital, Jos, Nigeria. | Source

The Causes Of Preterm Births

The causes of premature births are varied but there is no one known and specific reason for them. Some reasons commonly attributed to this condition are

1. Infections

2. Premature rapture of the membranes, maternal or fetal

3. Induction or Cesarean section due to health risks

According to a World Health Organization report, 13 million preterm babies are born every year throughout the world. 11 million of these babies are born in Africa and Asia.

A normal pregnancy lasts between 37 and 40 weeks. Any baby born at this time is considered to be mature and ready to adapt to life outside its mother’s womb. However, babies born before 37 weeks are premature, and face many risks in order to survive on their own. Many medical advances have been made, that, help babies in this condition, survive just as well as a full term baby would, in the more developed nations. Babies born prematurely in lesser developed countries, are not as lucky though, because of lack of more effective medical systems, or interventions.

The World Health Organization, journal report, on this same issue pointed out that, babies weighing 2000g, and born at about 32 weeks of gestation, have little chances of survival in the developing world. Whereas, in the developed world, their chance of survival, are the same as of those of children born at full term. The report also highlighted that, 10% of worldwide births occur before the 37 weeks of gestation especially between the 32nd and 37th week. Although the incident of such births are significant in Asia at 3.8 % and Southern Africa at 17.5%. In higher income regions, North America has a much higher rate at 10.6% than Europe that stands at 6.2% (the comparison here is where North America stands in the developed world).

The consequences of a preterm birth are adverse depending on how early a baby is born. The earlier a baby is born the higher the risks it faces in growing to maturity. Among the most common problems premature babies face are ones associated with the functioning of the lungs. Normally the lungs remain quite undeveloped until the later weeks of pregnancy. With very premature babies, the lungs are in such a state that apnea (an inability to breath) can easily occur if the baby is not supported by the kind of equipment one only finds in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Premature babies are known to die suddenly from minor respiratory infections even months after they were considered to be out of danger. Other problems include congenital disorders that affect the brain due to a reduced oxygen supply to the brain, like cerebral palsy.

How Are Families Affected And What Can YOU Do To Help?

The emotional and physical toll on families of preterm babies, are adverse, whether their babies go on to mature and lead normal lives, or are disabled as a result, or do not make it altogether. The roller coaster ride these families face can only be understood by those who have gone through similar circumstances. A premature birth is not like a normal birth in many ways, because the baby does not come home when it is expected to, and normally, hope is sustained alongside many doubts, and sometimes; changing circumstances can lead to bright expectations one day, and dread, the next. But, we can all help to make this burden lighter in the some ways.

1. The Premature baby is a human and dear to its family like any other so be considerate. You can send well wishes for the mother, baby and family including congratulatory notes, cards and gifts. These will not only tell the family how important you think their baby is, but give hope..

2. Let the parents know that they are all in your thoughts and you are praying for them.

3. Offer to help with any children that may be at home and needing attention.

4. Help with household chores that may remain undone while the parents’ attention is focused on the newborn.

5. Send words of encouragement as often as you can.

6. If a death has occurred, treat it like any other death and be courteous.

7. If there is a possibility the child will have to live with a disability, try to find ways of helping the parents cope, by providing resources that they may need. Make sure to ask if they need any help, and be on the lookout for ways to help especially in the first few months.

8. Many premature babies that become disabled need to see the doctor quite often; find out what you can do to help in the circumstances.

Do Something

March of Dimes

Finally, be proactive, support the March of Dimes an organization whose mission is to help mothers have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies.


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    • donnaisabella profile imageAUTHOR

      Isabella Mukanda 

      5 years ago from Fort Myers

      Thanks DDE. I am glad that you found my hub interesting and informative. I am sorry about your baby sister, she must have meant a lot to you for you to remember her after all these years.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      My sister was born a premature baby and was tiny but didn't live more than a week you have accomplished an interesting and informative hub on this topic.

    • donnaisabella profile imageAUTHOR

      Isabella Mukanda 

      7 years ago from Fort Myers

      Thanks for coming by and for reading itakins. I am sorry that you cried, it is very touching indeed.

    • itakins profile image


      7 years ago from Irl

      Very interesting hub - sad to think that mere mortals have so much control over life and death particularly governments.That video is wonderful,what a beautiful baby -yes, I cried too.

    • donnaisabella profile imageAUTHOR

      Isabella Mukanda 

      7 years ago from Fort Myers

      Hey Anan, so you also had a premature baby, it must have been hard for you especially that the circumstances were like that. Staying in hospital for 38 days is a long time. What you had though, was nothing short of a miracle, that girl must be one big blessing. And hey, you look sixteen, I did not think you would have a grown up girl, wow! Blessings to you too my dear friend, thanks for visiting me!

    • donnaisabella profile imageAUTHOR

      Isabella Mukanda 

      7 years ago from Fort Myers

      Hey Emily! Thanks for coming by. Yes, some of the videos are heart rending, this is one of the happy ones because you have the whole story. Thank God.

    • donnaisabella profile imageAUTHOR

      Isabella Mukanda 

      7 years ago from Fort Myers

      Debbie, thanks for coming by and for your contribution. Indeed it is a question of geography but also the priorities of government, I hope things get better, though. Have a good day.

    • donnaisabella profile imageAUTHOR

      Isabella Mukanda 

      7 years ago from Fort Myers

      Good day Hyphen!So you also had a preemie! It must be a disturbing experience, but thank God your baby is now grown. Sure, when I look at preemies and how their parents agonize over them, I cannot help but think about those others are trying to get rid of, what a shame and then the pain begins all over again. Thanks for coming by and for the love you have for your Lord, my sister.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      The story of your daughter is amazing and a testament to the power of our Lord. It is an incredible sight to view one of those preemies. Just to see a blood pressure cuff small enough or a diaper that fits into the palm of one's hands takes the breath away. Now I look at my boy's preemie clothing and cannot believe he ever fit into them. This entire Hub makes me fall to my knees before the throne of God. His precious and immaculate design is so beautiful. When I think women are aborting babies the age of the one in the video, I am horrified all over again.

    • debbie roberts profile image

      Debbie Roberts 

      7 years ago from Greece

      Your hub highlights the sad fact that premature babies born in developing countries stand much less of a chance of survival than if they were born in a developed country. It's sad because it is just geography and those parents feel the pain exactly the same where ever they are in the world.

      Your hub also gives some good tips for people who may know of a family going through the trauma of having a premature baby.

      An interesting hub and voted up.

    • profile image

      Emily Sparks 

      7 years ago

      That video you posted was sooo precious! The first moments in the hospital about made me cry, to him so small and helpless. The last pictures where he was at home though, they made me smile to see him growing and smiling!! Thanks for posting:):)

    • ananceleste profile image

      Anan Celeste 

      7 years ago from California

      You always make me cry DONNAISABELLA,

      I relived the whole experience that I had with my middle child. She was born 36 weeks and had a development of 32 weeks. The doctors thought she already died in the womb. My kidneys failed and I already broke my water. So when they open me up to "clean up" my daughter was still alive!

      They were surprised because the monitor indicated that she was already dead. ( no one had told me this) When they got her out they rushed her to the NICU. 3 Lb and 5 oz . After They released her 38 days later. Apart from being extremely skinny she is the healthiest of my children. She will be going to college soon and does sports. I can't believe that she went from a baby that my husband could fit in his hand , to the temperamental teen that we have today. We always have called her our living miracle. Blessings. Voted up.


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