Among the spectrum of human experiences, women can agree that pregnancy is one of the greatest. It truly is a glorious thing. This is most true for first-time mothers who are introduced to a novel journey that culminates in childbirth, which is just as exciting and demanding as the road taken to get there.
Ideally, pregnancy is punctuated by a joyous celebration, thanks to successful childbirth that has reached full term. But, unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Some mothers experience premature delivery. While this scenario does not always spell a sad ending for a woman’s pregnancy journey, it is still best if it can be avoided. This is where preterm birth awareness comes in.
What is premature or preterm birth?
A baby can be born before its target due date. It is no cause for concern if the little one decides to see the world a day or two earlier than expected. However, problems occur when a baby is born before its 37th week in the womb—this equates to premature birth.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 15 million premature babies are born every year. Among children below five years of age, premature birth complications are the leading cause of death. The Philippines, with 348,900 preterm births, is among the top 10 countries with the highest number of premature births. In 2015, the country ranked second in Southeast Asia.
It is imperative to champion prenatal care to avoid preterm birth. Aggressive information dissemination regarding usual causes and preventive measures proves crucial too.
Why does premature birth happen?
There are a number of reasons why preterm births happen. Here are some of them:
- Anemia – Iron deficiency affects the baby’s health inside the womb as well as the mother’s
- Carrying twins or multiple babies – About half of twin deliveries fail to reach the 37th week. Meanwhile, half of triplets are delivered before the 32nd week.
- Cervical weakness – most common in teen and late pregnancies.
- History of premature birth and miscarriage – Women who previously gave birth to a premature baby are twice as likely to experience preterm birth again.
- Low Pregnancy Associated Plasma Protein-A (PAPP-A) levels – are linked to an increased chance of premature birth. PAPP-A is a hormone produced by the placenta essential for normal fetal development.
- Prior multiple abortions – another possible cause of cervical weakness that could compromise full-term pregnancy
- Stress – Mothers experiencing stressful pregnancies are at a greater risk for not reaching their full term before delivery due to adverse effects of stress on the body.
- Uterine abnormalities – Untreated urinary infections double the risk of preterm birth.
How to Avoid Premature Birth
Premature babies have a higher death rate. If they survived having been born way too early, they could be at risk of disabilities ranging from breathing problems to cerebral palsy. That is why proactive care is highly necessary to ensure a safe, normal, and full-term delivery. Here are some precautionary measures to take:
- Start proper prenatal care as soon as pregnancy is confirmed – Regular consultation with a healthcare professional is the first order of business. The frequency of prenatal visits should be based on the obstetrician-gynecologist’s (OB-GYN’s) recommendation.
- Quit smoking – Smoking is bad for one’s health, whether pregnant or not. But it becomes even more dangerous if there is a baby inside the womb that will absorb everything the mother takes in, making it all the more crucial to quit the vice.
- Stop drinking alcohol – Mothers who drink alcohol while pregnant put their babies at risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This is an umbrella term for a spectrum of disorders that covers physical and behavioral problems.
- Stay away from recreational drugs – Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) afflicts babies whose mothers took opioids during pregnancy. Other types of recreational drugs could result in birth abnormalities as well.
- Wait at least 12 months between pregnancies – Family planning is healthy for a family, not only in terms of financial considerations. It can also lower the chances of preterm birth.
- Weight-watch – Pregnancy is a valid excuse for gaining weight between twenty-five (25) and thirty-five (35) pounds. That is for women with normal weight before getting pregnant. An unhealthy weight gain could trigger premature birth.
- Eat a balanced diet – While pregnant, make sure to get sufficient amounts of iron, folic acid, and other essential nutrients.
- Get treated for existing health conditions – Ailments ranging from diabetes to depression could affect a would-be mother’s pregnancy journey. It is imperative to work with a healthcare professional for a treatment plan for these conditions.
- Avoid stress – Do yoga. Learn to meditate. The more at peace the mind, the higher the chance for a sound body.
Going All the Way with Pregnancy
Nine months of pregnancy is not an easy experience to get through. However, it has its many joys, too—with the arrival of a new family member at the end of the journey. And only mothers could understand those often overwhelming and sometimes conflicting emotions linked to the journey towards childbirth. With that said, they need all the support they can get.
To avoid pregnancy complications and ensure successful delivery, top-notch prenatal care is of the essence. For world-class prenatal care and other healthcare services, visit Makati Medical Center.