Did you know that 15 million babies are born preterm each year, accounting for about one in 10 of all babies born worldwide?* That’s a LOT of babies! And it’s not just the moms who need to care about this—the whole family does.
Premature birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five worldwide. It can also cause long-term disabilities such as blindness and deafness, as well as learning disabilities and developmental delays.
Even when you do everything right during pregnancy, it is possible to have a baby before your due date. While the exact cause of preterm labor and premature birth are not known, many factors have been identified.
Reduce the risk of preterm labor and premature birth
There are some things you can do before and during pregnancy:
Have a preconception checkup. Get checked by a doctor before you get pregnant. Visit your healthcare provider even when you are only thinking about having a baby. Discuss whether you’re ready for pregnancy and whether you should make changes in your life before becoming pregnant. A pre-pregnancy checkup can also identify things that might increase your risk of having a preterm birth or other complications such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Keep a healthy lifestyle. Refrain from alcohol consumption, smoking, and drugs as these can cause birth defects. Keep a balanced diet, and exercise regularly. If you’re overweight, try to lose weight before you get pregnant. This can help improve your chances of having a healthy baby.
Get enough folic acid. It helps prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida in your baby.
Avoid infections or exposures to chemicals or radiation. Prevent yourself from getting flu, colds, and sexually transmitted diseases. Get vaccinated especially if you will be pregnant during the flu season, and any illness that causes fever should be reported to your doctor immediately. Get tested for STDs before becoming pregnant.
Get plenty of rest, especially during the first few months when your body is adjusting to the changes of pregnancy. Doing heavy exercises can be harmful to both you and your baby.
Have prenatal care checkups even if you’re feeling fine—see a doctor or midwife regularly during pregnancy.
Wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. This will help give your body time to recover from labor and delivery before trying again—and even though it might feel like forever right now, waiting will mean less stress for everyone later on down the line!
Finally, if you have even one sign or symptom of preterm labor—even if it’s just spotting—get help right away!
Prematurity prevention is possible
There are many things you can do and actions you can take that can increase your chances of delivering full-term, and giving life to a healthy baby. Nearly all women can have a healthy pregnancy if they seek routine prenatal care, eat right, and make time for regular exercise. We encourage you to work with your doctor throughout your pregnancy to lower your risk of preterm birth and help ensure a healthy pregnancy.
At FirstMed, we’re always happy to provide mothers and their families with individualized prenatal care throughout the pregnancy.