1 in 9 babies is born prematurely in the US each year. Although our rates are decreasing, that’s still a lot! The US isn’t receiving a great report card in comparison to other industrialized nations~ so what can we do as a country to bring more babies to term and lower the census in neonatal intensive care units?
Provide better access to health care
Establish more community programs focusing on maternal/infant health
Eliminate elective births by C-section and induction
What can YOU do as a mom to reduce the risk of giving birth prematurely? Well, there are few things….and you might do everything on this list and still have a preemie. That’s just the way nature works and not everything is within our control. But we do know that there are ways to help keep your baby warm and growing in your tummy for as long as possible, and we encourage all our expecting parents to read on:
Regular prenatal appointments
Find a healthcare provider who can see you throughout your pregnancy~ that can be an OB-GYN, midwife, or nurse at a community clinic. The important thing is to be checked regularly so that they can monitor your blood pressure, baby’s growth, and other aspects of your health.
The importance of keeping hydrated should not be underestimated! Water is vital to our lives, and for the the constant flow of nutrients from the placenta to baby via the umbilical cord. Your body needs more water than you think during pregnancy~ there is a lot going on in there! Have a water bottle handy with you throughout the day, and add some lemon if you like for more flavor.
Lots of veggies and fruit! Calcium and probiotics will also do your body well and help to prevent preterm labor. Natural yogurt is an exellent source of both! Vitamin C also works to keep baby in your belly longer, so eat foods like citrus fruits, carrots, and broccoli.
Take care of teeth
There is evidence that periodontitis, or inflamation of the gums, can lead to preterm labor. The exact mechanism of action is unknown, but it may be that harmful bacteria from the mouth migrate to the placenta and cause infection. To avoid this, brush twice daily with flouride toothpaste, floss, and get regular cleanings.
Whether you choose walking on a treadmill or going to prenatal yoga, exercise is good for both you and baby. If your body is healthy, all organs and systems will be in better working order for supplying nourishment to your fetus.
Talk to your baby
It might sound silly, but communicating with your baby can be influential in helping to strenghten the mother-baby bond and making the baby more apt to remain in the womb longer. If a baby feels disconnected from mom emotionally, there is less impetus to stay inside, especially if there are other risk factors for premature birth, such as high blood pressure. Tell the baby what’s going on, especially if there is a health issue. Let he or she know how important it is to grow inside for as long as possible, and that your womb is a safe haven of protection.
Pregnancy is a time to take care of your body and allow it to do it’s amazing job of growing a human. That takes energy, so conserve it and allow yourself plenty of relaxation time while incubating. Those errands can often be done by someone else in the family. Practice delegating: it’s a skill you’ll also need after baby comes! Exercise is good, but too much beelining around and overexerting yourself can be taxing for both you and the baby.