Friday, May 8, 2015

Prevent Premature Birth to Protect Your Newborn’s Health

By Stephanie Carson-Henderson, MD
Fort Worth OB-Gyn
TMA Leadership College Class of 2015

As we approach Mother’s Day, many of us who are lucky enough to be called “mommy” will remember the birth stories of our children … the contractions, the exhaustion … all of which are followed by the elation of seeing our newborn’s face for the first time. But if you have experienced preterm labor and a premature birth, you know that all of these emotions will quickly be overshadowed by the fear of a premature baby.  After two full-term births, my third child unexpectedly came a month early, and I now know firsthand just how frightening this can be. Thankfully, he was fine, but this is not always the case.

In the United States, one in nine babies will be born premature (delivery before 37 weeks). While our country’s preterm birth rate has declined in the last several years, it still remains higher than most developed nations. Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies born early are at risk for serious health problems and life-long disabilities. While we still do not know all of the causes of preterm labor and we may not be able to prevent all preterm births, here are some recommendations to promote a full term pregnancy:

  1. Take care of your health before you become pregnant, also known as “preconception health.” This is especially important if you have a chronic medical condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or asthma.
  2. Eat a healthy diet. Include a daily prenatal vitamin, even in the months before you try to conceive.
  3. Seek regular prenatal care once you are pregnant in order to monitor your health and your baby’s health. Be sure to mention any new symptoms.
  4. Avoid smoking and other unhealthy substances such as alcohol and illegal drugs.
  5. Get regular exercise and minimize stress.
  6. Talk with your physician about optimal spacing between pregnancies.

Know the warning signs of preterm labor. If you do experience any of the symptoms, contact your physician right away.

Although we cannot predict every preterm labor and prevent premature delivery, doing everything we can to promote a healthy pregnancy and full term delivery will go a long way to ensuring a healthy baby — and a Happy Mother’s Day.

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