Your Role in Preventing Premature Births in the U.S.
More than a million babies are born prematurely in the U.S. each year, which is one of the highest rates in the world. Babies born before 37 weeks gestation are at greater risk of a variety of long-term health problems. This is because important growth and development occur during the final weeks and months of pregnancy. While the premature birth rate is the lowest the U.S. has had in 17 years, it is still too high and changes must continue to be made.
The March of Dimes started the Prematurity Campaign in 2003 to help raise awareness of the problems that stem from prematurity. The goal of the campaign is to reduce the rate of preterm births in the U.S.
Premature births can be caused by a variety of factors, some of which are outside of the mother’s control such as gestational diabetes, hypertension or even infection. Other times, babies are born prematurely due to the mother’s lifestyle choices. Smoking, poor diet, drug use and excessive alcohol consumption during pregnancy increase the risk of premature birth.
Black women are 50% more likely to have a premature birth than white women. The age of the mother is also a factor. Mother’s less than age 19 and older than age 40 have the highest incidences of premature births. Stress has also been noted as a factor in premature births, particularly if chronic stress is a problem.
The best way to prevent a premature birth include:
- Get regular prenatal exams during your pregnancy
- Do not smoke, drink alcohol or take drugs that are not prescribed by your healthcare provider while pregnant
- Consume a healthy diet and take vitamin supplements that contain 400 micrograms of folic acid daily during pregnancy
- Be careful how much weight you gain during pregnancy as this puts you at greater risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia
It is important to seek care if you feel you may be having preterm labor. The warning signs include:
- Cramping that feel like a menstrual period
- Contractions, or tightening of the abdomen, that occur every 10 minutes or less
- Low, dull backache
- Pelvic pressure
- Change in vaginal discharge
Pregnancy is a beautiful time and by doing everything possible to reduce the likelihood of a premature birth, you give your baby the time it needs to fully develop. We offer prenatal counseling as a courtesy to expectant moms. For more information on preventing premature births or premature babies, please give us a call at 910.486.5437.