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The excitement of a baby being born can be uplifting. However, what isn’t talked about is the fear and anxiety caused during pregnancy. Every mother-to-be has a fear of something going wrong with the pregnancy or of jeopardizing the birth of her child, and one of the most common issues that trouble women around the world is the prospect of premature labour. To alleviate this fear, it is important that you understand what premature labour is, what it consists of, and how it can actually affect either you or your child.
What Is Premature Labour?
Every pregnancy can be broken down into 3 trimesters, and a full term of pregnancy consists of nine months. This is because it is estimated that it takes nine months for a foetus to develop enough to be able to handle the outside world and grow independently.
Premature labour is when a mother is unable to carry her baby for the full 9-month term. This can be due to a number of reasons that range from accidents and trauma to unknown or unpredictable illnesses. The term ‘premature labour’ itself indicates that the baby has been delivered or will be delivered before she is physically mature enough to curtail the risks of any disability or medical condition. Premature labour isn’t always preventable, and it can be an extremely scary and nerve-racking experience. Babies that are born prematurely can be at risk of developing a number of health conditions that can be both minor and major.
How Is Preterm Labour Diagnosed?
A medical history of the pregnant woman, along with some tests, can help a gynaecologist diagnose if there are chances of preterm labour. Factors like the age of the mother, physical and mental stress, whether she is carrying multiple foetuses, or has had a preterm delivery before also help the gynaecologist gauge the possibility of a preterm baby.
Ultrasound scans also help confirm the possibility of preterm labour. Shortening or opening of the cervix is often a sign that the woman is more likely to experience preterm labour. A fetal fibronectin test can also help diagnose if the woman will have an early delivery. The test identifies the level of a protein found in the amniotic fluid. Exceeding levels of this protein denote inflammation and damage of the placenta, which could trigger early labour.
15 Ways to Prevent a Premature Delivery
Although the causes of premature labour are not known, in some circumstances, it can be prevented. Here are some ways to lower the risks of preterm labour.
1. Talk to a Prenatal Specialist
Talking to a prenatal specialist can help you educate yourself about the most common causes of preterm labour. Understanding the root causes can help you plan your labour a lot better. Make sure you ask them as many questions as you need to understand the causes.
2. Prenatal Yoga
Prenatal yoga is soon becoming the go-to thing for most mothers. Not only does it keep you fit and help prevent numerous issues like joint pain and headaches, but it also helps improve blood circulation and regulates oxygen supply. These factors can help improve the chances of carrying your baby full term. Make sure you consult your doctor.
3. Pregnancy Pilates
Another fun and popular exercise that helps with a full-term pregnancy and combats preterm labour is pilates. This core and pelvis-concentrated workout is focused heavily on building and strengthening muscles that are directly involved in childbirth. Pilates can help ease the strain of delivery and help regulate your blood flow and relax your joints in the pelvic region, allowing for the baby to grow and develop in a safer environment. However, consult your doctor first.
4. Fight The Influenza
It is a commonly known fact that women who catch the flu more consistently are at a higher risk for premature labour. Ensure you get your shots on time, follow your doctor’s recommendations for when you have the flu, and make sure you get adequate rest. Over-exerting yourself when you have the flu can be dangerous, and in some cases, trigger labour far too early.
5. Take Your Vitamins
One of the most overlooked reasons for premature labour is vitamin deficiency. Doctors recommend taking prenatal vitamin capsules that contain folic acid to prevent miscarriages or preterm labour. You must ensure that you take regular doses of the prescribed vitamins to avoid chances of premature labour.
6. Don’t Smoke
Tobacco is one of the leading causes of preterm labour. Women who quit smoking during pregnancy can lower the risk of premature delivery.
7. Avoid Alcohol
It is a commonly known fact that alcohol can harm your pregnancy and put you at high risk for preterm labour. It is advisable that you quit drinking for this period to ensure the risk is minimised.
Almost every doctor will recommend exercising during pregnancy. This is primarily due to the fact that exercise improves blood circulation, keeps your heart healthy, and helps maintain foetal health, and prevent premature births.
9. Check and Maintain Your Recommended Weight
Doctors will advise that you stick to a prescribed diet to make sure that your health is in an optimal condition. Too much weight gain will increase the chances of conditions like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, which are known to cause early labour. Being underweight can also cause early labour.
10. Drink Enough Water
The importance of drinking water and staying hydrated increases when you are pregnant. Talk to your OB/GYN about the amount of water you should drink on a daily basis to stay adequately hydrated.
11. Clean Your Teeth
This one might surprise you. Ensuring that you take adequate care of your gums can be an important factor in determining that your pregnancy is carried to a full term. Gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis during pregnancy are also known to trigger preterm labour. Periodontitis, in particular, can spread down to the bone and give rise to more medical conditions. So, ensure you get your teeth checked regularly and follow a good dental hygiene regime.
12. Get Some R&R
Making sure that you get adequate rest and relaxation is not just vital for you and your baby’s health, but also necessary to ensure a full-term pregnancy. If you find yourself too busy, ask for help and take a few hours off to relax and rejuvenate. You can meditate regularly and visit a spa every once in a while. It will help you relieve the physical and mental stress you are going through during pregnancy.
13. Urinate When Needed
Do not hold your urine if you need to urinate. It can cause the bladder to inflame and make it more susceptible to contracting infections. Holding back when you need to urinate can also lead to irritation in the uterus, and can increase your chances of experiencing preterm labour.
14. Gap Between Pregnancies
Maintaining a healthy gap between consecutive pregnancies can be beneficial for a full-term pregnancy. Most doctors will recommend that you wait at least 3 years before trying to conceive again.
15. Eat Healthy
Maintaining a healthy diet is an absolute must during pregnancy. It is essential for both you and your baby’s health. Appropriate nutrition will also help maintain your blood sugar levels, thus decreasing the chances of gestational diabetes, which is also one of the causes of preterm labour. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. These nutrients are all known for helping in achieving a full-term pregnancy.
Striving for a full-term pregnancy while also making sure that your baby is healthy is one of the primary concerns most mothers-to-be have. Discuss your concerns with your OB/GYN and make sure that you keep all your doctor’s appointments diligently. Keeping yourself comfortable, healthy and positive during pregnancy is key, and do remember to stay away from any stress during this period.