Yesterday, November 17, marked World Prematurity Day, an event created as part of the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign along with several other participating organizations to raise awareness of premature birth and remember premature babies who died. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born prematurely. Prematurity is the leading cause of death among newborns in the United States, and causes complications at birth and lifelong illnesses. You may be surprised to know that our preterm birth rate is 12 in 100 babies -- the United States is tied with Somalia, Thailand, and Turkey. (Source: Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth)
Sometimes, in cases of true complications, preterm labor and birth is unavoidable. In many cases, however, preterm birth can be prevented. If you are pregnant, you can proactively lower your risk of preterm birth.
Lowering Your Risk of Preterm Birth
Prenatal Care - Seek ongoing prenatal care from a reputable care provider. Whether your preference is for a midwife or obstetrician, be sure to research your care provider's history and practices. Ask about their rate of induction. If they don't know it or report a rate ranging from 20-30+%, consider finding another care provider.
Induction - Inducing birth or scheduling a cesarean surgery prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy can lead to premature babies. Even if friends and family tell you different, every week counts! Babies undergo vital development up to the very moment of their birth. And, because your due date is just an estimate, it can be off by up to two weeks in either direction. So, a baby that is induced at 38 weeks may only be at 36 weeks gestation. If your care provider is pushing for early induction, ask questions! Learn what counts as true medical indication for early induction or cesarean surgery. If being so done with being pregnant is getting to you, hold tight and think of the babies born at 28 weeks, with mommies who would have given anything to make it to 40 weeks.
Education When it comes to making informed decisions in pregnancy and birth, the Internet is a good place to start, but not a good place to stop. Sign up to take a childbirth education class from a childbirth educator certified by a reputable childbirth education organization (there are many, but we really think Lamaze is tops!). Childbirth education provides the foundation for educated, evidence-based decision making for you and your partner throughout pregnancy and birth.
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