Premature or preterm birth is a common phenomenon in the UK, and it refers to any uncompleted pregnancy term that lasts for less than 37 weeks. It is usually a consequence of preterm labour, which can strike without warning or as a result of various behavioural and genetic factors. Regardless of the root cause, however, premature birth can cause significant health issues for both you and your unborn child.
While there may be some instances in which your medical team advises a premature birth (such as serious infection or sever preeclampsia), in general your unborn child will benefit from undergoing a full pregnancy term. Without this, there is a significant risk that they may incur difficulties with regards to their physical and mental development over time.
While healthcare providers will work tirelessly to ensure that you are afforded the best possible care, however, it is important that you assume individual responsibility for your unborn child and take practical steps to reduce the risk of premature birth. Consider the following:
Maintain a Balanced Diet and Weight
While it is widely assumed that pregnancy triggers considerable weight gain, this is not an entirely accurate perception. In fact, expectant mothers who maintain a balanced and healthy diet tend to experience only minimal weight gain, often during the final 9-10 weeks of their term. It is therefore important to gain expert guidance when it comes to managing your weight and consumption levels during pregnancy, as this will aid your physical capacity and minimise the risk of preterm labour and birth. As a starting point, eliminate all alcohol and foods that are high in saturated fat from your diet, while also ensuring that you reduce the amount of sugar that you consumer where necessary.
Safeguard your Body from Chronic Health Conditions and Infections
Infections are widely citied as a key cause of preterm birth, as are chronic health conditions that do not receive adequate treatment. Ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure and thyroid complaints can all heighten the risk of premature birth, so it is crucial that you get these under control before you commit to starting a family. Once you are pregnant, you should turn your attentions towards maintaining high levels of personal hygiene as a way of minimising the risk of infection. So be sure to wash your hands with soap and water regularly after using the bathroom or blowing your nose, and steer clear of pet faeces or unsanitary materials. Attention to detail is critical, as even the smallest infection can cause complications with your pregnancy.
Stay Active and Lower the Stress Levels
In previous generations, expectant women were often encouraged to give up work immediately and enjoy a sedentary lifestyle prior to the birth of their child. This has since been proven to be counterproductive, however, and modern women are encouraged to maintain their normal levels of activity and participate in regular, gentle exercise. Not only does this help to strengthen the body and its core muscle groups, but it also assists in alleviating stress and any anxiety that you may have as an expectant parent. Concerted levels of stress can increase the risk of premature birth, so it is important to take steps to eliminate these where possible.
In Summary: Why Avoiding Preterm Birth is a Team Effort
In the quest to avoid preterm birth and its numerous risks, it is important to solicit expert guidance from the moment that your pregnancy is confirmed. By following the advice of your healthcare providers and assuming individual responsibility for the short and long term well being of your child, it is possible to ensure that you experience a full term pregnancy and avoid the risks posed by premature birth.