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The entire month of November is dedicated to premature birth awareness, and with good reason. Every year, about 15 million babies are born prematurely, or before 37 weeks, across the world.
The United States has one of the highest rates of preterm births among industrialized counties. In 2016, about one in every 10 babies born in the U.S. was premature. The March of Dimes is taking action by raising awareness among expectant mothers and educating the public about how to prevent premature birth. Currently, the preterm birth rate in the U.S. is 9.6 percent, and the March of Dimes aims to reduce this to 8.1 percent by 2020.
Who is most at risk for a preterm labor?
Social, personal, and economic characteristics:
- Low or high maternal age
- Black race
- Low maternal income
- Socioeconomic status
Medical and pregnancy conditions:
- Prior preterm birth
- Carrying more than one baby (twins, triplets, or more)
- High blood pressure during pregnancy
- Presence of uterine or cervical abnormalities
- Recurring bladder and/or kidney infections
- Underweight or overweight before pregnancy
- High blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes
- Tobacco and alcohol use
- Substance abuse
- Late prenatal care
- Working long hours with lots of standing
Domestic violence, including physical, sexual or emotional abuse
What are the signs and symptoms of preterm labor?
Premature birth may be avoided if a pregnant woman recognizes the signs of preterm labor and quickly contacts her physician. Some warning signs include:
- Five or more contractions within an hour
- Watery discharge
- Low, dull backache
- Abdominal cramps
So what can pregnant women do to reduce the risk of early birth?
Although preterm birth is complicated and has many causes, there are several steps women can take to help reduce the chances of their baby being born prematurely. According to the CDC, pregnant women can:
- Quit smoking
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
- Get early prenatal care and continue to see a physician throughout the pregnancy
- See your physician if you experience any signs or symptoms of a preterm birth
- If a woman has previously experienced a pre-term birth, she can talk to her physician about receiving a progesterone treatment
- Wait at least 18 months between pregnancies
Help spread awareness
In 2015, preterm birth and low birth weight accounted for about 17% of infant deaths, according to the CDC. Babies who do survive could have the following health issues:
- Breathing problems
- Feeding difficulties
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delay
- Vision problems
- Hearing problems
Although premature birth can occur for many reasons, there are things pregnant women can and should do to lower the risk and help promote a healthy pregnancy and newborn.
This blog provides general information and discussion about healthcare-related subjects. The content and linked materials provided are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader is an expectant mother with a medical concern, she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or healthcare provider.
©2017. Ob Hospitalist Group, Inc. All rights reserved. View our linking and republishing policies.