November 17th this National Prematurity Day to raise awareness about preterm birth prevention.
One in ten babies is born prematurely, that is at least three weeks before their due date. Preterm labor can be relatively mild, where the infant just needs to be monitored, or it can be an emergency where the child is so underdeveloped that the gestation process was so far from complete that a team of experts must attempt to control the environment and almost recreate the womb until the baby can manage.
Needless to say, it is harrowing for any family to go through this, and while sometimes it is a mystery why babies arrive too soon, there are many reasons why it happens. Some of them include:
- Being very overweight or underweight before getting pregnant
- Substance abuse like alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
- Envitro fertility methods
- High blood pressure, preeclampsia and blood clotting disorders
There are other health issues that can contribute to a preterm birth, which is why it is imperative that women receive maternity care throughout their entire pregnancy. Part of that protocol is determining if the pregnant woman is at risk for premature birth and taking steps to ensure that she makes it through the entirety of her labor.
- Respiratory problems since their lungs are not yet ready to breath on their own
- Vision issues
- Trouble latching/nursing
- Developmental delays
- Cerebral Palsy
Thankfully, modern medicine has taken some profound leaps forward in saving preemies, and mothers are more well-informed about lifestyle choices that could have an impact. Rates in preemie births peaked in 2007 but have since dropped again as far as 2013.
For families who experience a dangerously early birth, the anxiety is constant until their baby is out of the woods and able to survive without intervention. There are some easy ways to support these families that can relieve the burden. Some suggestions made by families who have go through this include:
- Planning meals
- Communication with friend network
- Find preemie mentors try this resource: Grahams Foundation Website
- Avoid silver linings: “look on the bright side...”
- Don’t send flowers. They aren’t allowed in the baby’s room due to high risk of infection
- Take over practical tasks like picking up mail, dog-walking or lawn mowing
- Listen vs. making suggestions or doling out advice.
Many babies will get past the red alert stage and go on to lead very normal lives; it’s astounding now that doctors can aid babies that don’t even weight two pounds. However, our greatest ally in preventing premature birth is education. When women receive the support they need throughout their pregnancy, they can work with their doctors to address any red flags in their genetic background and maintain good habits to support healthy development. For more information on premature birth, visit: The March of Dimes website.