November 17 is recognized around the globe as the 8th annual World Prematurity Day.
Premature birth is birth that happens too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Each year 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely and more than 380,000 in the United States. Babies born too early may face life-threatening complications and have lifelong health problems. Tomorrow, in honor of World Prematurity Day, we are raising awareness of this serious health crisis.
We don’t always know what causes preterm labor and premature birth. Sometimes labor starts on its own without warning. Even if you do everything right during pregnancy, you can still give birth early. Here some things you can do before and during pregnancy to help reduce your risk for preterm labor and premature birth:
- Schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider to make sure your body is ready for pregnancy. Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy. And get treatment for medical conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and thyroid problems.
- Wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. Use birth control until you’re ready to get pregnant again.
- Protect yourself from infections. Get vaccinated, wash your hands often, and don’t eat raw meat, fish or eggs. Have safe sex to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections.
- Eat healthy foods and do something active every day. This can help reduce your stress and help you gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
- Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or use harmful drugs. Ask your provider about programs that can help you quit. Tell your provider about any medicines you take, with or without a prescription.
- Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. Prenatal care helps your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy.
- Learn the signs and symptoms of preterm labor and what to do if you have even one. This won’t reduce your risk of preterm labor. But it can give you time to get treatment quickly and that may help stop your labor.
There is no single cause of premature birth and no simple solution. March of Dimes is leading the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We’re advocating for policies to protect them. We’re working hard to find solutions and to improve the health care they receive.