Written by Diana Frankenburger, the childbirth education coordinator for UK HealthCare.
Prematurity and its complications are the leading cause of death in children younger than 5 in the world today. Infants born before 37 weeks gestation have more complications than full-term babies, including problems with feeding and digestion, vision and hearing, and breathing.
Premature report card
Each November, the March of Dimes publishes a Premature Birth Report Card, which grades the U.S. and each state on prematurity rates for the previous year. The goal is to be at 8.1 percent, an objective set by the Healthy People 2020 initiative, a science-based, 10-year program to improve the health of all Americans.
This year, the U.S. has a rate of 9.6 percent, earning a C letter grade. Kentucky’s rate is 10.8 percent, which unfortunately gives our state a D.
Tips to prevent preterm birth
While some risks for premature birth cannot be avoided, there are things you can do to help prevent a preterm birth. Here are a few tips:
- Stop smoking, or cut down to less than a half-pack per day. Smoking contributes to preterm birth, and a baby who lives in a house with smokers is also 3.5 times more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome than a baby who doesn’t.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Get prenatal care. Learn more about prenatal care at UK Women’s Health OB-GYN.
- Practice oral hygiene and see your dentist. Oral infections can lead to infections that can cause preterm labor.
- Practice stress reduction. Be aware of how you are handling stress and get sufficient exercise and rest to help get you ready for your new family member.
Delivering at full term will help your baby be healthier, stronger and avoid the complications that come with preterm birth.
- Learn more about the UK Birthing Center, the leading facility in Central Kentucky specializing in high-risk pregnancies and deliveries.
- The Birthing Center also offers a Childbirth Preparation Program, which will help prepare you for the changes that happen during pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. Find out more about our class offerings.