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Premature Birth

Chicago medical negligence attorney for premature birth injuries

Addressing Injuries From Preterm Labor and Delivery - Illinois Birth Injury Lawyer

While pregnancy typically lasts about 40 weeks, a pregnancy is considered full-term if the child is born after 37 weeks. If the birth takes place before 37 weeks, it is considered premature. Premature birth can involve a variety of complications, and it can result in injuries that affect a child's immediate and long-term health.

Risk Factors for Premature Birth

A baby may be born preterm for a variety of reasons. Doctors should be aware of potential risk factors that may require additional monitoring, treatments, or interventions meant to ensure that a child is delivered as close to full-term as possible. These risks include:

  • Maternal conditions - Premature birth is more likely if the mother has diabetes or experiences high blood pressure during pregnancy (which is known as preeclampsia). Previous preterm births, miscarriages, or abortions can also increase the risk of preterm labor.
  • Pregnancy-related issues - The risk of prematurity increases if a child was conceived through in-vitro fertilization, if there are multiple fetuses (twins, triplets, etc.), or if the mother became pregnant within six months of a previous pregnancy. Infections contracted by the mother or issues with the placenta, such as placenta previa or placental abruption, can also lead to premature birth.
  • Demographic factors - Mothers under the age of 16 or over the age of 35 are more likely to experience premature birth. The rate of prematurity is also higher for African-American women and mothers who earn a low income.
  • Behavioral issues - Smoking, drinking alcohol, or using illegal drugs during pregnancy can cause premature labor.

Preventing Preterm Birth

Proper prenatal medical care can help avoid preterm labor. During regular checkups, doctors should monitor the mother and child for any warning signs and, if necessary, take action to prolong the pregnancy, such as:

  • Ordering bed rest for the mother.
  • Prescribing hormone supplements such as progesterone to prevent labor from occurring.
  • Using antibiotics to address any infections.
  • Performing a surgical procedure known as "cervical cerclage" to help the cervix remain closed.

Consequences of Premature Birth

A child born before a pregnancy reaches full term may experience a variety of short-term and long-term health issues, including:

  • Lung problems - Underdeveloped lungs at the time of birth can cause an infant to have difficulty breathing. This may take the form of apnea, in which breathing stops for several seconds, or respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), in which the lungs are unable to expand properly when breathing.
  • Heart problems - If a child is born before the heart has fully developed, they may experience patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a heart defect that can lead to a persistent heart murmur or heart failure. Preterm infants often experience low blood pressure, which can lead to cystic encephalomalacia.
  • Brain injuries - Premature infants are at higher risk of experiencing hemorrhaging in the brain, which can cause conditions such as periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). In addition, issues with the lungs and heart may lead to a lack of oxygenated blood in the brain, which can cause neonatal stroke, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), or other types of brain damage.
  • Immune problems - If the immune system is not fully developed, a child will be highly susceptible to infections, which can spread through the bloodstream and lead to sepsis or meningitis.
  • Blood-related issues - Preterm infants may experience low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, which can affect their metabolism. A child's blood may also be affected by anemia or jaundice.

Care for a Premature Child

A child who is born premature may require extensive immediate medical care, and they may experience injuries that affect their long-term health. Injuries to the brain can result in intellectual disabilities, loss of vision or hearing, and developmental disorders such as cerebral palsy. Premature children are also more likely to experience behavioral issues, developmental delays, and chronic health concerns such as asthma.

Due to the high costs involved in caring for a child that was born premature, parents should be sure to understand their options for receiving financial assistance. At the Birth Injury Law Alliance, we can work with you to determine the tools and resources available to you. We can also help you determine whether preterm labor or any resulting complications occurred because of medical negligence, and in these cases, we can help you understand your legal options for pursuing compensation. To arrange a free consultation, contact us today at 312-945-1300.

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