Generally, a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is considered a premature baby. Preterm birth is a major reason behind the death of newborns. Many preemies who survive are likely to have long-term disability. Extremely preterm babies (less than 28 weeks) suffer lifelong consequences such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, blindness, and chronic lung disease, etc.
RISK FACTORS FOR PRETERM BIRTH
The specific cause of preterm birth is unclear, but there are certain things associated with preterm birth, including:
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- Previous pregnancy with a preterm birth
- Abnormal uterus
- Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
- Being pregnant with twins or other multiples
- Multiple miscarriages or abortions
- IVF pregnancy
- Improper care during pregnancy
- Drug abuse, smoking, or drinking during pregnancy
- Underlying health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, or thyroid
- Blood clotting issues
- STDs or vaginal infections
- Mother’s age factor -less than 17 years or more than 35 years of age
- Shortening of the cervix
- Conception within 6 months of pregnancy
In fact, many women with no known risk factors have a premature birth, which means it can happen to anyone.
PREVENTING PRETERM BIRTH
Preterm birth can be devastating and costly especially for families. To avoid this and have a healthy baby, it’s important for a woman to be in the best of health before she becomes pregnant. The following tips suggested by Dr. Srishailesh DM, Consultant Neonatology & Pediatrics, Apollo Cradle, Bengaluru, may reduce your risk of having a preterm birth.
KEEP GAPS BETWEEN YOUR PREGNANCIES: The importance of family planning doesn’t simply pertain to society but also for your general health and well-being. You need to make sure you give your body sufficient time to recover from one pregnancy and prepare for another one. It is recommended to have a minimum of 18 months of gap between successive pregnancies as this will lower the risk of the next baby being born prematurely.
MAKE SURE THE CONTRACEPTION YOU USE IS EFFECTIVE: The use of effective contraceptives is a must if you want to make sure you don’t conceive at least for the next 18 months. You can consult with your healthcare provider regarding the best options you have in terms of contraception.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT: Unhealthy weight is known to be one of the primary causes of preterm birth. The risk of the baby being born prematurely is high both in the case of underweight and overweight women. You should try to maintain BMI (Body Mass Index) at a healthy level. This means your body weight should be appropriate enough depending on your height. Talk to your doctor regarding the ideal body weight and the means through which you can achieve it.
AVOID DRUGS, ALCOHOL AND SMOKING: Alcohol and smoking are known to be detrimental to your health. In the case of pregnancy, habits like these pose a greater risk both to the mother and the baby. Women who smoke have an increased risk of preterm birth. Hence, it is advisable to avoid smoking or using any other illicit drugs as much as you can. Consider getting help to figure out a way to quit if you can’t do it
TAKE CARE OF CHRONIC CONDITIONS: Health conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and asthma are considered chronic and you should take care of such diseases before conceiving. Conditions like these are known to increase the chances of preterm birth. Consult with your doctor or healthcare provider on how can you control these diseases before becoming pregnant.
GET HELP TO AVOID MULTIPLE BIRTHS: The risk of preterm birth is higher for women who are pregnant with multiple babies. It is a common risk among women receiving fertility treatment. Ask your doctor how you can avoid multiple births if you’re struggling with infertility and need treatment to get pregnant.
While some preterm births can’t be prevented, proper prenatal care and taking necessary measures can increase your chances of having a full-term pregnancy and healthy baby.