Are you an expectant mom? Then you're probably doing everything you
can to prepare for those tiny little feet, soon to be tapping their way
around the house and into your heart. Having a baby is a genuinely exciting
and life changing time! But pregnancy can be stressful on the body, so
knowing all that’s involved with being pregnant can help you better
manage your pregnancy and avoid the added risks of complications such
as preterm birth.
Garima Loharuka, DO, an obstetrician/gynecologist at
Annadel Medical Group, says, “In the last few weeks of pregnancy, many of the baby’s
vital organ systems such as the brain, lungs and liver develop. The earlier
the baby is born, the higher the risk of developing serious disabilities
or death. Preterm birth is what happens when a baby is born before 37
weeks of pregnancy, and is actually one of the leading causes of neonatal
death and long-term neurological disabilities in developing children.”
“Preterm birth can happen to any expectant mother,” Dr. Loharuka
adds. “Not enough is known about it to determine the exact causes,
but some common factors have been identified between individuals who
do give birth prematurely versus those who
don’t. For example, patients with a history of uterine or cervical problems,
who are overweight or underweight, or who have previously had premature
births are more likely to have an occurrence. But, there are many things
that expecting moms can do to reduce their chances of having a preterm
Here are some of Dr. Loharuka’s tips for decreasing the chances of
a preterm birth:
Know the causes. While there are no clearly defined causes, known risk factors include
previous early deliveries, carrying twins, high blood pressure, diabetes,
being over 35 years of age, smoking or illegal drug use, having a uterine
infection during pregnancy, and being over or underweight.
Get prenatal care, early. The best way to ensure your pregnancy goes smoothly is to see your doctor
as soon as you become pregnant. Your doctor will be able to advise you
on the various do's and don’ts and can also prescribe prenatal vitamins.
Quit smoking and drinking. This can be challenging for lifelong smokers, but it is truly vital to
your baby’s health. Ask your doctor about what programs are available
to help you quit now.
Eat healthy. There is a temptation during pregnancy to eat unhealthy “craving”
foods. But remember, everything you eat gets absorbed into your baby’s
system, so by balancing your meals and consuming healthy sources of protein,
dairy, whole-wheat carbohydrates, and lots of fruits and vegetables, you
will ensure your baby gets all the vital nutrition he or she needs to
develop and grow.
Exercise. Regular exercise will not only help to keep expectant moms healthy but
will also reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes. Gentle workouts
like walking, swimming and yoga are great options. Talk to your doctor
for suggestions on safe exercise options.
Get tested. Some bacterial infections, such as Group B streptococcus, have no visible
symptoms but can be life-threatening to newborns. It’s vital that
you get tested for this and other uterine infections, so your doctor can
provide you with the necessary treatment or management methods to eliminate
or reduce this risk.
Prevent infection. During pregnancy, an expectant mother’s immune system often weakens,
so it’s important to ensure that measures are taken to avoid common
illnesses such as the flu. Getting flu shots is a safe way to reduce this
risk. Talk to your doctor about options for preventative care.
Check your prescriptions. If you are already on medication for other health problems, your current
prescription may be harmful to your baby. Talk to your doctor immediately;
she or he will be able to recommend safer alternatives if necessary.
Reduce your stress. Finding time to relax, unwind and do the things that you enjoy is an important
part of ensuring you and your baby stay healthy during your pregnancy.
Manage recurrences. If you’ve had a preterm birth before, chances are higher than you
will have it again. Talk to your doctor about what preventative treatments
may be available. Research has shown that certain hormones that mimic
progesterone can help. Also ask your doctor about a referral to a perinatologist.
A perinatologist specializes in complicated or higher-risk pregnancies
and can work with your ob/gyn to manage your care.
Do you have any suggestions to help expectant moms through this demanding
time? Share a comment below.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.