A consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Chris Abumchi, on Saturday in Abuja discussed some causes of preterm or premature birth. He listed violence among couples and other social vices such as smoking, alcohol consumption and drug abuse.

Abumchi said India and China lead the race in premature birth, followed by Nigeria.

According to him, preterm birth was a global challenge and one in every 10 babies is born premature.

He said that with 800,000 babies born prematurely every year, Nigeria had the highest burden in the world after India and China.

He explained that premature babies were born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy, and may experience more health challenges with need to stay longer in hospital than babies born later.

“The earlier in pregnancy a baby is born, the more likely he is to have health problems because premature babies have to spend time in a hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit.

“But thanks to advances in medical care, even babies born very prematurely are more likely to survive today than ever before,’’ he said.

Mr. Abumchi said the normal gestation period for humans was between 38 to 42 weeks, adding that preterm babies were born before the developing organs mature enough to allow normal postnatal survival.

He said the causes of preterm birth include weakness of the neck of the womb whereby a pregnant woman’s cervix begins to dilate before the pregnancy reaches full term.

“Multiple pregnancies, statistically 54 per cent of twins are delivered preterm as opposed to 9.6 per cent of singleton births while triplets and other multiple births are more endangered.

“Infections and chronic conditions such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, genetic influences and previous preterm births can as well predispose women to it,’’ he said.

He identified warning signs of preterm labour as contractions whereby the belly tightened every 10 minutes or more, change in vaginal discharge such as fluid or bleeding and belly cramps, among others.

The consultant advised women to seek early pre-natal care immediately they realised they had conceived to receive information on how to eat right, gain the proper weight and screen for infections.

He said all pregnant women should avoid certain risk factors such as being overweight, smoking, illegal drugs during pregnancy.