It takes 37 to 42 weeks for a pregnancy to be called ‘full term. When a baby is born prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is called ‘premature pregnancy’. It happens when the regular contractions result in the cervix opening up after 20 weeks but before 37 weeks. Preterm labour leads to preterm birth, and the sooner the preterm birth is, the greater are the risks to the baby’s health at the time of the birth or even in later life.
Health risks such as slow development, cerebral palsy and chronic lung disease, mental and physical disabilities are associated with premature pregnancy. Premature babies are known as ‘preemies.’ The preemies require special care in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Your baby requires about 40 weeks in the womb to grow and fully develop before birth. Studies show that babies born between 39 to 40 weeks have better motor skills and better intelligence than babies born earlier.
Various studies show that 11.1% of all births are premature worldwide, and in India, 13% of all the births occurring every year are premature births. It is the primary reason for neonatal death in the first month of life and the second most prominent reason for the end of children upto the age of 5 years. Finding a way to reduce the rate of such births must be a priority to contemporary health care.
Premature birth may also vary depending on race and geography, ranging from 15% or more in some parts of Africa to 6% in several European nations and perhaps lower in some parts of East Asia.
How to prevent Premature pregnancy?
Premature birth is uncertain; even doctors cannot pinpoint the exact reasons or causes of premature births and why it happens. Even with the unpredictability, there are specific ways and to prevent it. Studies show that following these does reduce the chances of premature birth and help you reach that finish line with flying colours.
1. Get regular checkups, and prenatal care
Regular checkups and prenatal care are essential. Timely checkups allow your doctor/ healthcare provider to understand your and your baby’s health. Suppose you have any existing conditions or history of preterm labor and are showing signs and symptoms. In that case, your doctor will suggest required medicines to take and steps to follow to prevent such delivery. Get all the tests done as asked by the doctor so he/she can monitor your condition.
2. A healthy diet
Have you heard about your body shows what you eat? Even if it is not always true, it is always necessary to eat healthily. It is not only beneficial for pregnant women but all. Healthy foods lead to a healthy birth and healthy babies. Studies suggest that a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids is associated with a lower risk of premature pregnancy. It is found in fish, nuts, seeds, and seed oils. Eat vitamin C, iron, calcium, omega3 fatty acid-rich foods.
3. Avoid Smoking, Alcohol, and drug use
Not only smoking, alcohol, and drugs increase the risk of premature pregnancy, but they may also lead to miscarriage. The toxins cross the placenta and may prevent the oxygen and essential nutrients from reaching the baby. Research shows that babies cry in the womb of those pregnant women who smoke and use drugs. So, looking for a reason to quit, here it is!
4. Consider taking a break
Studies suggest that sooner pregnancies have a higher chance of preterm labor than compared to women who take a gap of at least 18 months between pregnancies. Use birth control until you are ready to get pregnant again. If you are older than 35 years, consult your health care specialist to know more about how much of a gap must be given between pregnancies.
5. Prenatal yoga
Prenatal yoga is a top trend nowadays, and why shouldn’t it be! It helps you stay fit and cures numerous issues relating to your health, such as headaches, joint pains, etc. It also improves the circulation of blood throughout the body and regulates the oxygen supply. Yoga keeps mothers fit and also reduces the chances of premature births. Consult your specialist to know more on the topic.
6. Pregnancy Pilates
Pilates is another go-to activity that may prevent preterm labor. It works on the core and pelvis and focuses on building muscles and making them strong. Strong muscles help hold the baby longer, thus taking you to that full term. Pilates also helps to loosen any strained muscles, aiding in easy delivery, increasing blood flow, and relaxing joints. Consult your doctor before trying anything.
7. Take your vitamins
Preterm births also due to vitamin deficiencies so, make sure you boost levels. Doctors recommend vitamin capsules that are rich in folic acid to prevent miscarriage and preterm labor. Make sure you take them regularly in a prescribed manner.
8. Have a good walk
Every doctor recommends exercise unless you have any existing complexities. Walking is the most accessible exercise out there. It keeps you fit and also relieves stress. It helps maintain fetal health and enables you to avoid preterm birth.
Doctors usually recommend a diet to pregnant women to keep their weight in check as weight gain increases the chances of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, which are said to cause preterm labor. Being over or underweight leads to premature pregnancy, so make sure to keep your weight in check.
10. Drink water
Make sure you are hydrated at all times. Consult your doctor to know about the adequate amount of water that your body requires during your pregnancy.
11. Keep your gums clean
Gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis during pregnancy triggers premature labor. This may seem unrelated to periodontal gum disease can cause uterine infection. So, brush those teeth and get regular dental checkups to avoid any complications.
12. Get rest and comfort
Rest and comfort is the mantra for pregnant women. Keep those nerves calm and keep stress at bay to have a comfortable pregnancy. Stress can cause more harm than you can imagine. Do meditation if required. Take warm baths as it relieves stress. Maintain a healthy relationship with your partner and avoid violence and refrain from watching violent content. P.S your baby can hear everything.
13. Do that pee
Pregnant women should not hold their urine as it builds pressure and may inflame the bladder and make it more susceptible to infections. It also leads to uterus irritations which may result in premature pregnancy.
14. Fight diseases
women who catch flu are at higher risk of preterm labor. Follow doctor’s recommendations, medications and get enough rest to avoid any such risk. Existing conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, increase preterm labor risk. Consult your health care specialist for necessary treatment to keep any chronic conditions under control. Get treated for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and genital herpes may affect your baby. If you think you or your partner have an STI, talk to your doctor or go to a confidential genitourinary (GUM) or sexual health clinic. Seek advice about HIV. It can also be transmitted through sexual contact or sharing needles if you inject drugs.
Even if you are carrying the HIV virus, the right treatment can significantly reduce the chances of it being passed to your baby. If you doubt, get a test and talk to your healthcare team to avoid premature birth and other complications.
1. Fertility treatments increase the chances of twin babies.
Sadly, twins and triplets are at a higher risk of premature pregnancy; therefore, consult your doctor to know how to reduce the possibility of multiples and avoid complications.
2. Women with a short or weak cervix
The Cervix (the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina) who had a miscarriage or had preterm delivery before are more likely to labor early. In these cases, the doctors recommend treatments such as:
This is a hormone that can be given as a shot or put into the vagina. It helps lower the chance of preterm labor for those women who had a premature baby before or who have a short cervix.
This is a procedure where stitches are made close to a woman’s cervix to prevent preterm birth. Doctors recommend cerclage for women who have had premature pregnancies or miscarriages, who have a short cervix, or those who have a cervix that begins to dilate at a very early stage.
Women who have twins also are more likely to go into labor early. These treatments can’t prevent early delivery if you’re carrying more than one baby.
Watch out for the signs It is essential to know and watch out for signs and symptoms for timely consultation regarding any issues and complications. Don’t take the characters lightly, and consult your health care specialist at your earliest.
A warning signal of premature pregnancy are:
1. Frequent Contractions, cramps, and tightening sensations
2. Pressure in the pelvis or lower belly as if the baby is pushing.
3. Changes in vaginal discharge (watery, mucus, or blood-like)
4. More vaginal discharge than the usual
5. Light bleeding or vaginal spotting
6. Rupture of membranes, i.e., in a gush or constant trickle of fluid after the membrane around the baby breaks.
7. Constant backaches
Pregnant Women must research this issue and understand its symptoms, causes, and preventive measures to ensure their babies’ safe deliverance and make sure that their pregnancy goes smoothly. Even though premature labor may also occur to women with no known risk, it is always better to abide by a few tips and rules to prevent such delivery as prevention is always better and cheaper than the cure.
Antara Chowdhury is a Content Marketer and Strategist with 6 years of experience. She is Master degree holder in Journalism and wants to explore everything she can write on.