Getting to Nine

While many preterm births are unexplainable, certain factors have been shown to lead to early delivery. Women who are thinking about becoming pregnant should familiarize themselves with these known causes of preterm birth, while pregnant women should make every effort to maintain a healthy pregnancy by minimizing these risk factors

Delayed Prenatal Care

One of the most basic aspects of pregnancy, prenatal care, is also one of the most important when it comes to preventing premature labor. Pregnant women need to be seen by an OB/GYN on a consistent basis throughout their pregnancy to ensure that their baby is developing properly and that medical complications are dealt with in a timely manner. Your first prenatal visit should take place somewhere between 7-9 weeks gestation. If you are considered high risk, your physician may want to see you sooner and more often.

To find a provider who accepts your insurance, check out the links below.

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Being Overweight or Underweight Prior to Pregnancy

Being underweight or overweight at any point during your life is never a good idea, but prior to and during pregnancy your weight can have serious effects on your health and the health of your unborn baby.

Prior to becoming pregnant, you should calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine if you are underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. Once you have this information, you can start to take the appropriate steps that will help you achieve a healthy weight. A consistent exercise practice and a focus on healthy eating can both help you achieve your weight goals.

If you are currently pregnant, talk to your doctor about the appropriate amount of weight you should gain over the next nine months. Generally speaking, women with a normal pre-pregnancy weight should gain anywhere from 1 4.5 pounds during the entire first trimester, and 1 2 pounds per week during the second and third trimester. This equates to a caloric intake of 1,800 calories during the first trimester, 2,200 during the second trimester, and 2,400 during the third trimester. If you are underweight or overweight when you find out you are pregnant, your physician will work with you to achieve the optimal weight gain for a healthy pregnancy. Moms expecting multiples should also consult their OB/GYN to learn more about their specific weight gain recommendations.

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Smoking, Alcohol, and Illegal Drugs

Every food or substance that a pregnant woman ingests can directly affect the health of her unborn baby. If a woman smokes during pregnancy, her baby is exposed to harmful chemicals such as tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict, so less oxygen and nutrients reach the fetus, and carbon monoxide can decrease the amount of oxygen the baby receives. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it quickly reaches the fetus through the placenta. An adults liver can break down the alcohol ingested, but because the babys liver is not fully developed, it is unable to do so, causing significant health problems. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a serious repercussion of drinking during pregnancy that can have lasting detrimental effects.

If you need help quitting smoking, please call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). If you have a problem with illegal drugs or need help to quit drinking during pregnancy, please reach out to your OB/GYN for help. They can direct you to the appropriate resources depending on the severity of your problem.

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Mental Health

Perinatal depression is the most common complication of childbirth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) estimates that 14% 23% of women will suffer with symptoms of depression during pregnancy, and at least one in seven women (14%) will experience significant depression within the first year after childbirth. Approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women will develop anxiety. While these statistics are alarming on their own, whats even more concerning is the fact that only 15% of women perinatal depression and anxiety will ever seek treatment.

Untreated depression during pregnancy has been associated with poor pregnancy and birth outcomes including maternal preeclampsia, low birth weight, smaller head circumferences, increased risk of premature delivery, increased surgical delivery interventions, lower APGAR scores, and a higher rate of admission to the neonatal intensive care unit. If a woman experiences depression postpartum, her baby may experience long-term effects that include poor mother-infant attachment, delayed cognitive and linguistic skills, impaired emotional development, and behavioral issues.

Stressful life events are another issue that can have serious repercussions for women who are currently pregnant. Although we often cannot control these events (death of a family member, job loss, etc.) from happening, making sure that you have a good social support network and access to qualified mental health professionals can help ensure that you process the event appropriately, while continuing to focus on your prenatal health.

To find a mental health care provider near you, please visit Postpartum Health Alliances website.

If you are a NICU parent and want to connect with others who have experienced a similar situation, consider joining the Miracle Babies Parents Supporting Parents, a social support service.

Postpartum Health AlliancesParents Supporting Parents

Infections

Of the 10% 15% of infants who are born premature every year, 40% of these births are attributed to untreated intrauterine infections. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) and Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are two of the most common infections during pregnancy, and often times the symptoms are so mild you may be unaware that you even have an active infection.

Approximately 10% 30% percent of pregnant women will contract BV at some point during their pregnancy. This infection is the result of an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina, and symptoms can include a foul smelling vaginal odor, discharge, and vaginal itching. Although BV is not a sexually transmitted infection, it is associated with vaginal intercourse, and women increase their risk of contracting this infection by having a new sexual partner, multiple sexual partners, or by douching.

A urinary tract infection, also known as a bladder infection, is an inflammation in the urinary system. Common symptoms include a sense of urgency, passing small amounts of urine, a burning sensation, cloudy urine, or blood in the urine. UTIs are most common between 6 and 24 weeks of pregnancy, as the uterus starts to grow and begins to block drainage of urine to the bladder. All pregnant women should submit a urine sample to their OB/GYN at the beginning of their pregnancy to determine if there is bacteria present in their urinary tract. If detected, UTIs can be safely treated with antibiotics.

Carrying Multiples

Women who are pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, or more!) are six times more likely to delivery prematurely. Genetics, age, assisted reproductive technology, and chance can all play a role in the likelihood of carrying multiples. Once you find out you are carrying more than one baby, your physician will talk to you about certain precautions you may need to take as you progress in your pregnancy. Additional ultrasounds, increased frequency of prenatal visits, possible need for a C-section, and early bedrest are all factors that may be discussed.

To learn more about the potential complications inherent in a multiples pregnancy, please visit the American Pregnancy Associations website.

American Pregnancy Associaiton