Stay Healthy to Help Avoid Challenges of Premature Birth

One of the best ways for mothers to deliver a healthy baby is to see him or her through to a full 40-week term. Babies born before 37 weeks are considered premature. These preemies often face short and long-term issues with problems including heart, neurological, breathing, gastrointestinal or stomach, bleeding, and infection. And premature birth is the leading cause of infant death in America.

But expecting mothers can take important steps to help guard against premature births — even before getting pregnant. By improving your own health, you can decrease your risk of having a premature infant.

Start by doing the following:

• Take folic acid before getting pregnant and during pregnancy as it reduces the risk of babies born with anomalies such as spina bifida

• Stop smoking
• Eat healthy
• Stay fit
• Avoid stress
• Get prenatal care early

And expecting mothers should ask their OB providers about the risks of induction or scheduling a c-section before 39 weeks.

Also, it is important to be aware of changes in Medicaid that now make expecting mothers eligible for prenatal care from the time they become pregnant. No reason to delay seeing a doctor to help give the baby its best start.

Another important step, before getting pregnant, is to find out if you are at risk for a premature delivery. Start with these questions:

• Have you been told there was something wrong with your uterus?
• Have you had a previous pre-term birth?
• Have you had a previous multiple delivery like twins, etc.?
• Have you had previous surgery on your cervix such as a cervical conization?
• Did you experience vaginal bleeding or infections during pregnancy?
• Are you obese? This can lead to diabetes and hypertension, which could lead to a pre-term birth.

The key for every mother is to be in the healthiest shape possible before getting pregnant and then working with your doctor on a great approach to prenatal care early in your pregnancy.

More great information on ways to help deliver a healthy baby can found at the March of Dimes very informative website.

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