Three factors you can control to help prevent premature birth

preemie and momAlthough there are certain risk factors for premature birth that a woman is not able to change, the good news is that there are three risk factors that most women can do something about.

Researchers at the March of Dimes Ohio Collaborative Prematurity Research Center are making big strides. According to their published study, up to one-quarter of preterm births (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) might be prevented if we focused on three risk factors – birth spacing, weight before pregnancy and weight gain during pregnancy.

What did the research show?

The study looked at the records of 400,000 single births and found that more than 90% of the women had one of these three risk factors. The women in the study who had less than a year between pregnancies, were underweight before pregnancy and gained too little weight during pregnancy had the highest rates of preterm births – 25.2%, according to the researchers. The good news is that women may have more control over these risk factors than other factors, which can influence preterm births.

Birth spacing

Birth spacing is the period of time between giving birth and getting pregnant again. It’s also called pregnancy spacing or interpregnancy interval (also called IPI). Getting pregnant too soon can increase your next baby’s chances of being born prematurely, as well as being born at a low birthweight or small for gestational age (SGA). It’s best to wait at least 18 months after having a baby before getting pregnant again. If you’re older than 35 or have had a miscarriage or stillbirth, talk to your provider about how long to wait.

Weight before pregnancy

Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy is important. Women who are overweight or underweight are more likely to have serious pregnancy complications, including giving birth prematurely. How do you know if you’re at a healthy weight? Schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. This is the best time to discuss your weight and make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant.

Weight gain during pregnancy

Gaining too much or too little weight can be harmful to you and your baby. It’s important to gain the right amount of weight for your body. Your provider can help you determine how much weight you need to gain during pregnancy.

Bottom line

There is still much we do not know about the causes of premature birth. But, knowing some things that a woman can do to decrease her chance of giving birth early, is good news.

Check out the cutting edge research our Ohio Collaborative is working on.

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