More than half of Taiwan’s expectant mothers underestimate the rate of premature births, although an average of 2,000 infants are born prematurely each year in the nation, a survey released yesterday by the Taiwan Maternal Fetal Medicine Society showed.
The survey — conducted in May among 465 women in the 16th week of their pregnancies — found that about 57 percent estimated the nation’s premature birthrate at below 5 percent. About one in 10 newborns are delivered preterm each year, the society said.
It also found that the majority of those polled shared five misconceptions about preterm births: that the premature birthrate is low, that preterm births can be avoided through routine prenatal screenings, that premature births have genetic causes, that vaginal discharge is not associated with preterm labor and that premature delivery cannot be prevented.
Chiayi Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Division of Gynecology director Cheng Bi-hua (鄭碧華) said about 40 to 50 percent of premature births were caused by vaginal infection and endometritis, an inflammation that could occur due to “Group B” streptococcus bacteria, influenza viruses or other pathogens.
Taiwan Maternal Fetal Medicine Society director-general and obstetrician Cheng Po-jen (鄭博仁) said nearly 60 percent of mothers-to-be were unaware of the links between genital infections and premature labor.
“A significant increase in off-white or brown vaginal discharge that has a fishy odor is an indication of infection, while lower back pain could be a precursor to premature birth,” Cheng Po-jen said.
Citing statistics by the nonprofit American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Cheng Po-jen said pregnant women should particularly look out for symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, which happens to about 10 to 30 percent of expectant mothers.
“Mothers-to-be are advised to pay attention to their vaginal discharge, learn to recognize the early signs of preterm birth, keep their outer genital area clean, and maintain good oral hygiene,” Cheng Po-jen said.
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