4 ways to reduce the risk of premature birth
About 380,000 babies are born prematurely every year in the United States. Premature birth is the No. 1 killer of babies, and babies born too soon have an increased risk for serious health complications and lifelong disabilities.
- Multiple gestation (i.e. twins)
- An abnormal uterus (congenital anomaly or fibroids)
- Infection (either intrauterine or systemic, such as a kidney infection or appendicitis)
- Previous preterm delivery
- Previous cervical surgery
However, many preterm births go unexplained, Dr. Morrison says.
A healthy pregnancy starts long before a woman becomes pregnant, according to March of Dimes. It’s important for women of childbearing age to make sure they stay healthy and treat any existing conditions before becoming pregnant.
They offer four ways a woman can give herself the best chance of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby:
- Take a multivitamin with folic acid every day. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can reduce a baby’s risk for birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. It can prevent heart disease, cervical cancer and colon cancer.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Women who are overweight are at higher risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which are harmful to babies. Being underweight can result in a baby being born too soon or too small.
- Get chronic health problems in check. Talk with a physician about conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or depression, and discuss treatment options.
- Lower stress. Stress during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born too soon. Reduce stress before becoming pregnant by asking for help or adjusting your work schedule.
“A woman can do a few things to reduce her risk,” Dr. Morrison says. “Stop smoking, use progesterone supplements for a woman with a history of preterm delivery, cervical stitch for a woman with a history of incompetent cervix or a short cervix noted on ultrasound and limit the number of embryo transfers during in vitro fertilization. Lastly, avoid elective delivery before 39 weeks gestation.”
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