Sometimes the best way to give a baby the greatest chance of survival is through prevention of preterm birth. This is especially true for high-risk pregnancies, which puts mom at an increased chance of delivering preterm (before 37 weeks).
A high-risk pregnancy occurs when a woman has conditions – preexisting or developed during pregnancy – that raise her or her baby’s chances for health problems or preterm delivery. A woman’s pregnancy might be considered high-risk if she is/has:
- Age 17 or younger or age 35 or older
- Underweight or overweight before becoming pregnant
- Pregnant with twins, triplets or other multiples
- High blood pressure, diabetes, depression or other chronic health problems
- Problems with a previous pregnancy, including premature labor and/or birth
- Having a child with a genetic problem or birth defect
Beyond these pregnancy factors, data shows that the risk of preterm birth most dramatically affects women of color and low-income communities.
“While the hospital makes every effort to reduce the risk of prematurity across the board, we’re putting a heavy emphasis on how we can help women whose circumstances put undue stress on mom and baby, which can be harmful for all involved,” said Robin Naples, prematurity initiatives program coordinator and Maternal Fetal Medicine social worker, Akron Children’s Hospital. “Every year we look at what information and programs we can put together to help high-risk moms. We work closely with other community partners to help support these moms through services, access and support needed to not only deliver healthy, full-term babies, but also to keep babies healthy during that first year when so much development still occurs.”
While nearly 1 out of 10 babies born in Ohio are born premature, there’s currently no reliable way to predict preterm birth risk, but there are ways to possibly prevent it. Moms-to-be can lower their risk of preterm birth through health and lifestyle changes, including:
- See your doctor early and regularly in your pregnancy for prenatal care.
- Talk to your provider about how to protect yourself from infections.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods, drink lots of water and take prenatal vitamins.
- Avoid alcohol, smoking or use of illegal or prescription drugs. Support through programs such as Baby and Me Tobacco Free can help.
- Seek help and advice from medical professionals for diabetes, high blood pressure, depression or other health problems.
- Talk to your provider about a healthy weight gain.
- If you have had a premature baby or have a short cervix, ask your doctor about progesterone therapy. Appropriate progesterone treatment lowers the risk of preterm birth.
- Wait until baby is 18-24 months old before becoming pregnant again makes a healthier choice for mom and baby.
- Learn about the Pathways HUB program, offered in Summit and surrounding counties, and how a community health worker can assist qualified moms in navigating needed resource options.
- After delivery, Akron Children’s Nurturing Families Program can help new moms and families learn strategies and skills to make good and healthy lifestyle choices at home and for baby.
In support of Prematurity Awareness Month in November, Akron Children’s is taking a closer look at the numbers associated with preterm births and how to reduce a woman’s risk of having a premature baby.