Ask most moms-to-be whether they want a boy or a girl and they often say: “It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s healthy.” But each year, worldwide, 15 million babies are born too soon and one million of them die before their first birthday. In recognition of November as Prematurity Awareness Month, the Hawaii Chapter of the March of Dimes is focusing on raising awareness about preterm birth.
Premature birth, birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy, is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifetime health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and others. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. At least 39 weeks of pregnancy are important to a baby’s health because many vital organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then.
Women can reduce their risk of having a preterm birth by:
w Not smoking during pregnancy
w Going to all your prenatal care appointments
w Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy and controlling your weight gain during pregnancy
w Treating chronic health conditions before pregnancy
w Protecting yourself from infections, including the flu
w Reducing stress
w Pregnant women should know the signs of preterm labor and call their health care provider if they have any of the warning signs.
Sign of preterm labor include:
w Contractions (your belly tightens like a fist) every 10 minutes or more often
w Change in vaginal discharge (leaking fluid or bleeding)
w Pelvic pressure – the feeling your baby is pushing down
w Low, dull backache
w Cramps that feel like your period
w Belly cramps
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information about prematurity, visit marchofdimes.com. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Lin Joseph, MPH, director of program services, March of Dimes Hawaii Chapter firstname.lastname@example.org