Though the rate of preterm births in the United States has been falling for the past few years, as many as half a million preterm deliveries do still take place in the country each year. There is a heightened risk of problems such as blindness, respiratory diseases and learning disabilities for children who are born too early.
While medical advancement means that we now have the means to save the lives of preterm babies, doctors are still at a loss when it comes to preventing or predicting preterm births.
In about half the cases where a mother delivers early, doctors have no idea about the underlying cause for this, though the following theories are postulated:
- Social stress could be one cause.
- Bacterial infection could be another.
- Hereditary factors, which could contribute to preterm delivery risk.
- Preterm births occur as a result of a complex interplay of factors pertaining to the fetus, the mother and their environments.
- The fact that doctors are not able to understand why or what sets off any kind of labor, be it full term or preterm, adds to the difficulty in understanding or predicting preterm births.
More genetic research and research into other components of labor may help doctors understand the phenomenon of preterm delivery better.