November is National Prematurity Awareness Month. The March of Dimes has been doing work, online and off, to spread word...
National Prematurity Awareness MonthNovember is National Prematurity Awareness Month. The March of Dimes has been doing work, online and off, to spread word about preterm birth. Here are some sobering statistics that, yes, you need to read even if -- and especially if -- you're awaiting the arrival of your precious baby.
  • 543,000 babies, or 1 in 8, are born prematurely each year.
  • Premature birth is the number 1 killer of newborns.
  • Premature babies cost ten times more than healthy babies.
1 in 8? Do you have eight friends? Do you know eight women of child baring age? Will it be your baby? The truth is that even women who are well-educated on pregnancy health who seem to be having uneventful singleton pregnancies can have a premature baby. You're not exempt because you're fit, healthy and smart. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Prematurity is a cause near and dear to my heart. My babies all made it to full term -- just barely. I was on Level III bed rest with all three of my pregnancies that resulted in babies. I was placed on bed rest around 32 weeks each time because of, you guessed it, preterm labor. I was given various drugs to stop the labors (terbutaline, magnesium drip) and steroid shots to boost the babies' lungs. Each baby was monitored closely by doctors and nurses. My issues related to my kidney health, so my own health was also closely monitored. It was a stressful time, but I came out of it with healthy babies. But I was lucky. Had my health issues happened twenty or thirty years ago, I don't know if I'd be telling the same story. The work that the March of Dimes does to help mothers, doctors and researchers is key to the three percent decline in the prematurity birth rate. So what causes prematurity? According to the March of Dimes, the cause is unknown in 40% of premature births. However, they are nailing down the causes and have come up with four basics.
  • Infections/Inflammation. Including genital and urinary tract infections.
  • Maternal or fetal stress.
  • Bleeding. Placental abruption as one example.
  • Stretching. With the presence of two or more babies.
Certain groups of women are also at greater risk than others. Examples include mothers who have already had a preterm birth, women pregnant with multiples, women with certain uterine or cervical abnormalities, women who have received no prenatal care, women with certain medical conditions (diabetes as an example), babies with certain birth defects and so on. You can't magically cover yourself from the risk of preterm labor, but you can know risk factors, be aware of signs and symptoms of preterm labor and get yourself and your baby the proper prenatal care. I'll be talking about other issues throughout the month of November. Until then, keep those buns baking. Did you give birth to a premature baby? Share your story with us.

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