Did you know that any baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is considered preterm? A typical pregnancy is 40 gestational weeks, with day one of week one being the first day of your last menstrual period.
If you give birth to a preterm infant, your baby may experience a host of problems that may require admission to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Often, the severity of the problems depends on how many weeks too early he or she was born.
The earlier a baby is born, the more immediate and long-term health problems he or she is likely to have, such as respiratory, digestive, brain, and developmental delays.
Prematurity causes babies to struggle with regulating their temperature and blood sugar (glucose) or can cause babies to have to be on a ventilator for respiratory distress. Birthing a baby preterm is typically stressful and devastating for parents.
If born premature, your baby would need close observation ranging from a few hours to weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit with continued, close follow-up after discharge for many months.
So, what can you do to keep your baby from being born too early? While researchers have recently identified key hormonal changes that may unlock clues as to why some babies are born early, there’s still no way to predict which pregnancies end in preterm birth.
There are, however, things you can do to reduce your risks of experiencing preterm labor and birth, plus warning signs that can help you seek early and necessary treatment that you can watch for and relay to your healthcare provider to help prevent a preterm birth.
What women sometimes think of as the normal aches and pains of pregnancy can be warning signs of preterm labor or birth. Why not get these symptoms checked out to make sure that you’re not in early labor? If something doesn’t feel right, call your healthcare provider. Or go to the hospital if the symptoms don’t go away after drinking a couple glasses of water or juice and resting for an hour on your left side.
You know your body better than anyone. If something’s not right, seek medical attention. There are no limits to doing what’s best for you and your baby – even if it means several trips to your provider’s office or the hospital to make sure that you’re not in early labor.
You have little control over the physical risks related to preterm birth:
But you can control the known lifestyle factors related to preterm birth by doing the following: