Wednesday, November 20, 2013

PAM - FOD #15 - Why and how to prevent preterm birth

Prematurity Awareness Month
Fact of the Day
Days 15-30 (smile)

Q: What causes a baby to be born prematurely? What can I do to prevent a preterm birth?
First, a note. I was going to take the last half of prematurity awareness month to tackle some of the causes of preterm birth, one per day, and also point to some tips for preventing preterm birth.  But I'm rolling them all into one post for two reasons:
1. Blogging has proved to be a lower priority to me than other life events. You'll see that my FODs slowly die off and more and more days are skipped as the month goes on. I give no excuses, except that I think I was right to put this as a lower priority. The twenty or so of you that faithfully read this blog probably didn't care much. If I do this again next year, I'm writing all the posts in one go so that I know I'll post them daily. 
2. I realized I'm not qualified. I don't understand preeclampsia or premature rupture of membranes. I don't even know why I delivered early. I had a perfect pregnancy up until just shy of 21 weeks. My chart says "incompetent cervix" but the doctor admitted that he wasn't sure if it was IC or preterm labor. And my cervix didn't really thin until the very end. Not a perfect picture of either. And I had zero risk factors for early delivery, so I'm not sure I could have prevented it. Live a less stressful life, maybe. But that's hard to do.

So instead of a blog post a day, I'll roll it all in to one, and point you to Mayo Clinic and What to Expect When You're Expecting for more information. 

A: Sometimes (like with me) we don't know why a baby is born early. The mother is healthy and (I'd like to think) has done everything right. You're at higher risk if:
  • You've had a preemie before. 
  • You're having more than one baby at a time (twins or triplets are often born early.)
  • You conceived through in vetro fertilization. (I've wondered, though, is this because you're more likely to have multiples through IVF? I'm not sure... In any case, lots of studies think that IVF is part of the reason we've seen an upswing in number of preterm births over the past decade.)
  • You have placenta previa - where the baby's placenta covers the mother's cervix.
  • You've had preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) - when the water breaks before a mom hits 37 weeks and before the mom has gone into labor. Note: you can stay pregnant for many months with PPROM. If you've ruptured early in pregnancy, have hope. It doesn't mean impending delivery. I didn't have PPROM, my membranes ruptured during labor ("spontanious premature rupture of membranes" or SPROM). I only stayed pregnant two days past my water breaking. But those two days were essential for JAM.
  • Other uterus, cervix or placenta problems (See?  This is why this is all one post. I'm unqualified to speak to this. Since I can't really tell you much, I'm quoting Mayo Clinic's website for the rest of my list. I recommend going there for more information).
  • Alcohol, cigarettes, other drugs. (Don't do drugs. It's bad.), other nutrition issues, infections, high blood pressure, stressful life events, multiple miscarriages or abortions, physical trauma/injury, Unusual shape of uterus

To prevent preterm birth:
I found a fantastic website here that talks about what you can do to stay healthy while pregnant, and what you can do to avoid having a preterm birth. It explains why each of the tips below is important. To summarize:
Be healthy. Don't smoke or drink or do drugs. Take your prenatal vitamins. Eat well (small snacks often are good) but gain weight at an appropriate rate - not too little or too fast. Drink water, brush and floss your teeth and see your dentist (FOR REAL! It's for the health of your baby), use the restroom when you have to (don't hold it), and talk to your doctor if you're worried.

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