What is Preterm Birth?
Preterm birth is defined as any pregnancy where a child is born before 37 weeks. Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant death, with most deaths occurring if the child is born before week 31 or 32. Preterm birth is also the leading cause of long-term mental disabilities and numerous health conditions, such as cerebral palsy and vision issues. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm every year. Preterm birth rates have been rising each year. A baby being born prematurely means that they were not able to finish developing, which can lead to health problems along with a major emotional and financial toll on the family.
What Causes Preterm Birth?
Preterm birth can occur for a variety of reasons, with most happening spontaneously. However, certain factors can make it more likely for someone to experience preterm birth, which include:
- Being pregnant with more than one baby
- Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
- Having a family history of preterm birth
- Chronic medical conditions (ex: diabetes or high blood pressure)
- Genetic factors
During your appointments with your doctor, they will make you aware of the signs of both preterm labor and normal labor, so you will know what to look out for and when to contact your doctor if needed.
Preventing Preterm Birth in NJ
At NJPA, we guide patients through their pregnancies and help them make certain lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of preterm birth. Although some risk factors cannot be avoided, staying healthy throughout your pregnancy can make it less likely that you will experience issues when it comes time to deliver your baby.
Seeking Proper Prenatal Care
Seeking prenatal care if you are pregnant is a huge first step in preventing preterm birth. Your doctor can recommend a prenatal vitamin and evaluate any medications you are taking to make sure they are safe for the pregnancy. Staying healthy and avoiding common ailments, like the flu, are quite important as the flu increases the chances of preterm birth. Our high-risk pregnancy specialists at NJPA have extensive experience helping expectant mothers gain the knowledge they need to make healthy choices during their pregnancies to achieve a successful birth.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Being at a healthy weight is important before your pregnancy, as your body should be at an optimum level before the stresses pregnancy induces. The weight of the mother during the pregnancy should be monitored closely as well. Preterm risks increase when a mother is far above her recommended weight for that period in the pregnancy.
Eliminating Harmful Lifestyle Habits
Certain lifestyle habits can increase the risk of preterm birth, which is why making lifestyle changes during pregnancy is so important. Habits like smoking can lead to preterm birth, and although quitting completely is recommended, the patch is a safer alternative for a pregnant woman. You should also avoid drinking alcohol and misusing prescription drugs during your pregnancy.
Eating a Balanced Diet
Part of remaining healthy to promote a full-term pregnancy includes eating a healthy diet. Along with any prenatal vitamins your doctor recommends, you should also eat a balanced diet with foods containing iron and folic acid. Eating a balanced diet is also very important for maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy.
Staying on top of your mental health is extremely important during pregnancy. You should be sure to set aside time for yourself to do the things you love, as well as incorporate stress reduction habits into your life. These can include yoga, meditation, or seeking support from friends and loved ones.