Can you prevent a premature birth

Preventing premature birth: what helps?

cervix

Around the 20th week of pregnancy, the gynecologist can use ultrasound to measure the length of the cervix. Until birth, its length should not be less than 25 millimeters. A shortened cervix halfway through pregnancy significantly increases the risk of premature birth. The cervix could open long before the due date. To prevent this, the cervix can be closed with a plastic band (cerclage) or ring (pessary).

Women with a shortened cervix are also given progesterone in tablet form, a hormone that helps maintain pregnancy. "In pregnant women with a shortened cervix, the administration of progesterone lowers the risk of premature birth by a third and prevents premature births before the 31st week," explains Ekkehard Schleu├čner. Progesterone can also significantly reduce the risk of other risk factors such as previous premature births. Expectant mothers then take the drug until
34th week a.

Infections

Itching in the vagina and smelly discharge should always be a warning sign during pregnancy. In many cases, an infection in the vagina, bacterial vaginosis, is the cause of premature birth. If this infection moves towards the uterus, it can cause labor or rupture of the bladder there. For this reason, gynecologists check whether the environment in the vagina is right with every examination. Pregnant women can do this themselves with a special glove (from the pharmacy) that measures the pH value in the vagina - this is often increased in the event of an infection.

"Even if the data is not clear, like many gynecologists, I recommend this self-measurement," says Schleu├čner, who 15 years ago worked on a campaign to prevent premature births in Thuringia. Pregnant women received the glove for measuring the vaginal pH value free of charge from the gynecologist and were able to test themselves. "Then the premature birth rate fell rapidly before the 32nd week," says Schleussner. Other federal states have repeated this action with similar results. In the meantime, some health insurance companies also cover the costs for the glove.

Vaginal infections are often a trigger for premature births or late abortions. If this risk is known, the cervix can be closed with a thin layer of tissue if the pregnancy occurs again. "The result is a bacteria-proof barrier that protects the cervix, but opens easily during birth," says doctor Jan-Peter Siedentopf. Such operations - like cerclage - also involve risks and should therefore be carefully weighed up with the doctor beforehand.