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Preterm Labor & Birth: Giving Birth to a Preemie

What Is Preterm Birth?

Preterm birth is when you deliver a baby before your due date. Doctors call this type of birth a “preterm birth.” But most women know it as giving birth to a “preemie.”

Some babies are delivered prematurely because the mother or baby have medical problems that make it dangerous to carry the pregnancy to full term (40 weeks).

In these cases, doctors may induce (or force) the mother to go into labor—even though this means the baby will be born prematurely. These types of births are called indicated (or medically predicted) preterm birth.

Doctors may recommend preterm labor and delivery because of:

  • pregnancy-related problems, such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy);
  • medical problems for the mom, such as diabetes;
  • or fetal problems, such as poor growth.

Utah Preterm Birth Prevention Clinic

The Utah Preterm Birth Prevention Clinic is a collaboration between University of Utah Health and Intermountain Health Care to provide cutting-edge information and technology to prevent one of the most common and serious complications of pregnancy—giving birth to a preemie.

If you've given birth to a preemie in the past or if you believe you have a higher chance of having another preemie, the Utah Preterm Birth Prevention Clinic will perform a comprehensive and in-depth evaluation of your risk. We will also outline a treatment plan for your pregnancy to minimize your chance of having a preemie.

If you or your health care provider believe you have a higher chance of having a preterm birth, or if you've given birth to a preemie before, please contact our office coordinator to arrange a consultation at your earliest convenience. 

Spontaneous Preterm Birth

Spontaneous preterm birth is birth that doctors didn’t predict or know would happen. Our clinic mostly treats women who have spontaneous preterm births.

Most doctors define spontaneous preterm birth as any birth that happens more than three weeks before a baby’s expected due date.

How Much Do Premature Babies Weigh?

Some doctors use birth weight (how much a baby weighs at birth) to determine if a baby is premature. Any infant that weighs less than five-and-a-half pounds at birth (2500 grams) is considered to be a preemie. 

Find a Preterm Labor & Birth Specialist

How Do Doctors Predict When Your Baby Will Be Born?

Normal, healthy pregnancies last about 40 weeks. (Doctors call the amount of weeks a baby spends in the womb gestation). If you deliver or go into labor when your baby is less than 20 weeks old, this is called a miscarriage.

Each year, women around the world give birth to more than 15 million preemies. This happens when a woman delivers a baby that’s 20 through 36 weeks old.

It’s important for doctors to accurately assign a gestation age so they can determine if a baby is a preemie. To assign a correct gestation age, doctors can ask questions about a woman’s period and calculate a due date based on when the beginning of her last menstrual period started. 

Ideally, ultrasounds and measurements of a growing fetus will confirm the same gestational age that your doctor has calculated based on your last period. But sometimes an early ultrasound will calculate a different gestational age than your last period due date.

If this happens, doctors generally consider your ultrasound due date more accurate.

Do I Need to Transfer My Care From My Regular Obstetrician?

Our clinic only provides consultations to women who have a higher chance of giving birth to a preemie. We hope that you continue your regular obstetric care and visits with your current OB provider

We will give a detailed report to your physician outlining your risk factors and any treatments or interventions we recommend. 

If you choose to participate in our Preterm Birth Prevention Clinic, you will visit us three times during your pregnancy:

  1. Your first visit will happen between the time of conception to 18 weeks gestation. 
  2. The second visit will happen between 22 and 26 weeks gestation.
  3. The third visit will happen between 26 and 32 weeks gestation. 

Each of these visits is designed to screen for infection or other risk factors that may be associated with an increased chance of preterm birth.

Meet Our Patients

A Journey of Resilience and Hope: From Motherhood to Patient Coordinator

Rachel Harbert wanted to start a family, but her path to pregnancy tested her resilience. After five years of fertility treatments, she conceived twins, a boy and a girl. Her son Preston was born prematurely at 27 weeks.

Rachel Harbert tells her story about her journey to start a family.

Contact the Preterm Birth Prevention Clinic

For patients coming to University of Utah Health, please call the Maternal-Fetal Medicine office at 801-581-8425. You could ask your current physician for a referral to our clinic, and we would be happy to see you. 

The Prematurity Prevention Clinic is located at University of Utah Hospital in the Maternal Fetal Diagnostic Clinic.

Maternal Fetal Diagnostic Clinic

Rm 2185
University of Utah Hospital
50 Medical Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84132

Intermountain Health Care

Call the Maternal-Fetal Medicine office at IMC at 801-507-7400.

Visit the Maternal Fetal Diagnostics Clinic

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