Premature birth: why do some babies come early?

From ABC Health and Wellbeing, 5 December 2013:

Like most first-time mothers, Sheridan had certain expectations of how the birth of her first child might go.

Those expectations did not include giving birth to her baby nearly six weeks before her due date. Nor did they include a panicked ambulance trip to the nearest major hospital, or having to go home alone after the birth – while her newborn son remained in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Sheridan was having a pedicure when her membranes began to leak. Only a small amount of fluid escaped, and she wasn’t experiencing any pain, so she decided to continue on to a dental appointment. However after that, she noticed more liquid, and driving back home, she began to feel some early contractions. She drove to her parents’ house and her father took her to the nearby regional hospital.

“They examined me and said ‘we think you’re having this baby today’ but because I was so early, I had to get transferred,” Sheridan recalls.

She was put into an ambulance with a midwife, and they began the hour-long drive to the larger metropolitan hospital.

“I must have been in the ambulance for about five to ten minutes, and I remember hearing the midwife tell the ambulance drivers, ‘no, we need lights and sirens, she’s coming a lot quicker’,” Sheridan says.

Sheridan gave birth to her son Isaac about five hours later. It was December 23, and Isaac’s due date had been January 29.

Premature birth occurs in around one in ten pregnancies, yet we still have very little understanding of what causes it, and are only now making inroads into predicting and preventing it. Read more.

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