Premature Labour: Top 8 Ways To Minimize Your Risk

Eyinade Eweje

Premature births – births before 37 weeks of pregnancy – are quite common, and said to be one of the major causes of babies’ death at birth and in the first month of life. A premature baby may also be prone to developing complications, including developmental delays.

While a variety of factors may trigger premature labour, here are top preventive measures you can take to reduce your risk to the barest minimum and ensure you bring home a full-term, happy and healthy baby…

1. Get early prenatal care

Seeking quality prenatal care and counselling while trying to conceive and as soon as pregnancy is confirmed will aid having an overall healthy pregnancy and ensure potential problems are tracked and promptly addressed.

Your doctor will also be able to offer proper advice on your diet, weight gain and prescribe appropriate prenatal vitamin to make up for any nutritional deficiency (ies). The prenatal vitamin will contain folic acid, a B-vitamin research says may help reduce the risk of two conditions that often contribute to premature birth – placental abruption, whereby the placenta separates from the uterine wall, and preeclampsia – pregnancy induced high blood pressure.

2. Discuss your risks with your doctor

Pregnant women who have had previous premature deliveries, are carrying multiple babies, have high blood pressure or diabetes, are 35 or older, or over- or underweight are at more risk. If you fall in any of these categories, it’s important to discuss possible helpful interventions with your doctor.

For instance, a recent study found the hormone progesterone can be given to pregnant women who have had one preterm delivery already as a shot or a gel during weeks 16 – 36 to reduce the risk of having another preterm birth.

If you are a high risk for preterm birth, your doctor may also advise the use of condom during intercourse, as semen is said to contain prostaglandins, which initiate contractions.

3. Get screened for possible infections

Get screened for possible infections that may increase your risk, including gonorrhea, Chlamydia, bacterial vaginosis (BV) and urinary tract infections.

A pregnant woman with a vaginal bacterial infection releases infection-fighting chemicals called cytokines which cause inflammation. The aftermath of this is the release of prostaglandins which start the chemical process that brings on contractions and the dilation of the cervix, resulting in preterm labour.

In addition, have an appointment with your dentist before or early in pregnancy to get checked for gum disease as it may also contribute significantly to premature birth. Subsequent routine checkups and proper oral hygiene may also help.

READ ALSO: Pregnancy and Delivery: What Your Cervix Looks Like During Labour Stages

4. Keep an eye on your weight

Gaining more weight than appropriate may fuel complications such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, increasing the risk of preterm labour. Research also shows women who are underweight are less likely to have a full-term pregnancy.

Depending on your pre-pregnancy weight, adding between 25 – 35 pounds is recommended during pregnancy. Obese women are usually advised to gain between 15 – 25 pounds. Ask your doctor about the range that is appropriate for you, exercise and eat a wholesome diet.

If you are under- or overweight, consider getting help to ensure appropriate diet and weight gain.

READ ALSO: 11 Things You May Not Have Been Told About Labour

5. Omega-3s

A healthy diet including lots of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, protein and dairy, and so on is vital. In addition, opt for lots of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids including walnuts and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and titus. Studies say women with higher levels of these fatty acids have a lower risk of having a premature birth.

6. Your lifestyle habits

It’s also important to manage stress effectively by getting adequate rest, engage in exercises such as swimming, walking and yoga, and kick habits such as smoking, alcohol consumption, recreational drug use and self medication.

7. Pee as soon as you get the urge

Holding your urine may cause bladder inflammation. This can irritate your uterus and initiate early contractions. It may also cause urinary tract infections which increases the risk of preterm labour.

In addition, drink lots of water to prevent dehydration which may also trigger premature contractions.

8. Try to space your pregnancies by 18 months or more

Short interval between pregnancies also impacts your risk. Therefore, experts advise waiting for 18 months after your last baby’s birth before conceiving again. Studies show women who wait for a longer period have even lesser risk of having a premature birth.

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