Here’s the good news: It’s far more likely your baby will be arriving late (as in overdue) than early. Just about 12 percent of labors and births are considered premature, or preterm – that is, occurring before the 37th weeks of pregnancy. And around half of these occur in women who are known to be at higher risk for premature delivery, including the ever-multiplying percentage of moms-to-be of multiples.
Is there anything you can do to help prevent preterm birth if your pregnancy profile puts you at the higher risk for it? In some cases, there isn’t – even when a risk factor is identified (and it won’t always be ), it can’t necessarily be controlled. But in other cases, the risk factor or factors that might lead to an early birth can be controlled or at least minimized. Eliminate any that apply to you, you may up the chances that your baby will stay put contentedly until term. Here are some known risk factors for premature labor that can be controlled:
- Too Little Or Too Much Weight Gain. Gaining too little weight can increase the chances your baby will be born early, but so can packing on too many pounds. Gaining just the right number of pounds for your baby a healthier uterine environment and, ideally, a better chance of staying there until term.
- Inadequate Nutrition. Giving your baby the healthiest start in life isn’t just above gaining the right number of pounds – it’s about gaining them on the right types of foods. A diet that lacks necessary nutrients (especially folate) increases your risk for premature delivery; a diet that’s nutrition packed decreases that risk. In fact, some evidence indicates that eating well regularly can lower the risk of early delivery.
- Lots Of Standing Or Heavy Physical Labor. Check with your practitioner to see if you should cut back on the time you spend on your feet, especially when it involves heavy physical labor and lifting – has been linked to preterm labor in some studies.
- Extreme Emotional Stress. Some studies have shown a link between extreme emotional stress and premature labor. Sometimes the cause of such excessive stress can be eliminated or minimized (by quitting or cutting back at an unhealthy high-pressure job, for example); sometimes it’s unavoidable (as when you lose your job or there’s been illness or death in the family). Still, many kinds of stress can be reduced with relaxation techniques, good nutrition, a balance of exercise and rest, and by talking the problem out with your spouse or friends, your practitioner or a therapist.
- Alcohol And Drug Use. Expectant moms who use alcohol and illegal drugs boost the risk of having a premature delivery.
- Smoking. Smoking during pregnancy may be linked to an increased risk of premature delivery. Quitting before conception or as early as possible in pregnancy is best, but quitting at any time in pregnancy is definitely better than not quitting at all.
- Gum Infection. Some studies show that gum disease is associated with preterm delivery. Some researchers suspect that the bacteria that cause inflammation in the gums can actually get into the bloodstream, reach the fetus, and initiate early delivery. Other researchers propose another possibility. The bacteria that cause inflammation in the gums can also trigger the immune system to produce inflammation in the cervix and uterus, triggering early labor. Practise good oral hygiene and getting regular dental care can prevent the bacterial infection and possibly lower your risk for an early labor. Treatment for existing infections prior to pregnancy – though not necessarily during pregnancy – may also help lower the risk for a variety of complications, including preterm labor.
- Incompetent Cervix.