Premature birth is the number-one killer of American newborns. To draw attention to this disturbing statistic, the March of Dimes has named November as Prematurity Awareness Month. Premature births are common, costly and often preventable if moms-to-be take care of their health and learn the warning signs.
According to the March of Dimes organization, between 1981 and 2003, the rate of premature births rose from 9.4 percent to 12.3, an increase of almost 31 percent. Every year nearly 500,000 infants are born prematurely. The March of Dimes is partnering with the American Academy of Pediatrics to fund research and education aimed at reducing prematurity by 15 percent. You can help by making a donation at the March of Dimes, www.marchofdimes.com. And if you are a mom-to-be, you can take a little time to find out about premature births and what you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Here’s a head start from your friends at Corner Stork Baby Gifts:
WARNING SIGNS OF PREMATURE BIRTH
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks. By definition, a premature birth takes place more than three weeks before the due date. In a premature birth the baby has less time to develop and mature in the womb, which results in an increased risk of various medical and developmental problems. You can recognize preterm labor if you know what to look for. Even months before your due date, pay attention to:
- Contractions that occur more than six times each hour (It’s a tightening sensation in your abdomen, similar to menstrual cramps.)
- Low, dull backache
- Pelvic pressure or pain
- Vaginal spotting or bleeding
- Watery vaginal discharge (This may be amniotic fluid, which surrounds your baby in the uterus.)
Contact your health care provider if you are concerned. Don’t worry about mistaking false labor for the real thing. Better safe than sorry—always.
RISK FACTORS FOR PREMATURE BIRTH
The very best thing you can do for your unborn baby is to take good care of his or her mom. Take note of these most common risk factors:
- Having a previous preterm labor or premature birth
- Pregnancy with twins, triplets or other multiples
- Problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta
- Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs
- Some infections, particularly of the amniotic fluid and lower genital tract
- Some chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
- Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
- Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one or domestic violence
- Multiple miscarriages or abortions
For reasons not yet known, black women are more than twice as likely to experience preterm labor and premature birth than are women of other races. But, make no mistake—preterm labor and premature birth can happen to anyone. For more information, please check out Corner Stork’s Baby Resources. At Corner Stork Baby Gifts, we want every mother and newborn to be healthy, happy and headed for a wonderful life!