According to the March of Dimes, premature birth is the number one killer of children under the age of 5. In 2017, almost one in 10 babies born in the United States was born too early. That’s about 400,000 babies every year. When babies are born prematurely, it often leads to health problems, developmental disabilities, complications, and sometimes death. Prospective mothers should be educated on how to do everything they can to carry their baby to full term. Here are a couple things to consider.
Experts suggest women add roughly 30 pounds in the course of pregnancy. Importantly, underweight women should gain a bit more, and overweight women a bit less. However, it can be easy to overeat. Women only really need to consume 300 more calories a day when pregnant, but pregnancy cravings can dwarf that number easily. Therefore, it is important for prospective mothers to manage their weight the best they can. Being either over or underweight can increase the odds of premature birth. With a combination of exercise and a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight through pregnancy is not nearly as difficult as it may sound, and is remarkably important to both the mother and growing baby.
Part of maintaining a healthy weight is staying active. A lack of mobility, combined with increased caloric intake, may cause a mother’s weight to balloon. This not only decreases overall well-being, but increases the risks of conditions like diabetes and pre-eclampsia, which can cause premature birth. Don’t overdo it; exercise that is too frequent or too intensive can actually end up doing more harm than good and can cause premature birth. Staying active with mild exercise will keep the body strong, limit risk of premature birth, and reduce stress.
Believe it or not, your mental state during pregnancy actually makes a difference. Although scientists cannot say for sure that stress causes preterm labor, there is an association. Acute stress floods the body with hormones and leads to an uptick in blood pressure and heart rate. This is typically a short-lived response, after which the body recovers and returns to normal. Chronic stress, however, can throw off the balance and inhibit the body’s ability to recover. If this causes too much of an imbalance in the body, it is possible the results could lead to premature labor or premature birth. You can try to limit stress with regular exercise, counseling, and alternative therapies like acupuncture or massages.
This should come as no surprise in 2019, but alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drug use are all major no-no’s for pregnant women. Smoking while pregnant will harm the growing baby and increase the likelihood of complications. There is a clear link between smoking and premature labor; the more you smoke, the higher your chance of having your baby prematurely. The same can be said about alcohol and drug use: they are known to be a risk factors in causing premature birth. Notably, abstinence from tobacco, drugs, and alcohol will not only benefit your health, but your finances as well. It’s a good idea to stay away from all three if you can.
You might not think good hygiene would make a difference, but science has shown it does. Make sure you wash your hands carefully before meals, after using the restroom, and after contact with high-traffic public places. It is especially important to wash your hands before they come into contact with your mouth. You could inadvertently transfer dangerous germs into your body which could then impact you or your unborn child. It’s a fairly easy thing to remember, and it could pay major dividends. Keep yourself as clean as possible.
It’s not just your external hygiene you need to worry about. Your teeth and gums are just as important. There is a link between tooth decay, gum disease and premature birth. This suggests that inflammation and infections in the teeth and gums could be associated with premature labor, although it likely is not causative or correlative. With that said, however, keeping your mouth as clean as possible will limit the risks of foreign pathogens wreaking havoc.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. It is important to realize the occurrence of this phenomenon and discuss the things we can do to limit its rate of incidence. By practicing good hygiene, limiting stress, staying active and healthy, and avoiding illicit substances, you can do your part to reduce your risks of premature labor and premature birth.