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Prematurity Awareness Month

Tips to prevent preterm birth

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. 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.

Each November, the March of Dimes publishes a Premature Birth Report Card, which grades the U.S. and each state individually 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 and earns a C letter grade. Kentucky’s rate is 10.7 percent, which unfortunately gives our state a D.

It is clear that there is room for improvement within our state and country. And 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:

  1. Stop smoking, or cut down to less than a half-pack per day. We know that 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.
  2. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  3. Get prenatal care. It does make a difference.
  4. Practice oral hygiene and see your dentist: oral infections can lead to systemic infections that can cause preterm labor.
  5. 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.

We don’t know why some babies come early, but we do know the above methods can help prevent it. Delivering at full term will help your baby be healthier, stronger and avoid the complications that come with preterm birth.

Resources:

UK HealthCare allows new moms to practice skin to skin even after a C-section

Making each birthing experience the best for you

I helped a new mom perform skin to skin in the operating room recently. What an experience!

Mom had to have a scheduled cesarean section, and she asked if I could be there to help. It was an honor to be part of watching a new life emerge and seeing him gaze into his mother’s eyes for the first time. Even though a C-section wasn’t how Mom had imagined meeting her son, it was still a special moment as we placed him on her chest and helped her hold him close while her surgery was completed.

Diana Frankenburger

Diana Frankenburger

What struck me most about the operating room was how calm, relaxed, and positive everyone was. The circulating nurse made sure Mom was comfortable, reassured Dad and kept track of the procedure. The attending physician stayed with Mom during the prep, explained everything we were doing and bantered with the scrub tech about how much the baby would weigh. We don’t weigh babies until after their first hour with mom, so we had plenty of time to make our estimates.

From the anesthesiologist who explained things to Dad, to the second-year resident who made baby weight estimates with the rest of us, the atmosphere wasn’t formal. The procedure was conducted according to set quality and safety guidelines, but the tone and the message to the new parents were, “This is your birth experience. We want to make it the very best for you, as you welcome your little one to the world.”

Skin to skin in the operating room isn’t possible for everyone, but I’m glad UK HealthCare allows us to make this happen whenever we can. For moms who have to deliver by C-seciton, being able to still have that first special hour with their infants is wonderful.

Diana Frankenburger is the Childbirth Education Coordinator for UK HealthCare.