During an average week, 1,072 babies are born in Kentucky. Of those, 137 (12.7 percent) are born prematurely. The national average is 11.4 percent. Premature birth is when a baby is born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks.
What can you do to reduce your risks of having an early delivery?
- Get early prenatal care. See your doctor as soon as you know you’re pregnant or are trying to get pregnant (only 75 percent of women in Kentucky seek early prenatal care). Discuss any preexisting conditions you have such as sexually transmitted infections, vaginal infections, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even gum disease – all of which can raise your risk of premature delivery. Take a prenatal vitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid.
- Avoid risky substances. If you smoke, quit (Kentucky has one of the nation’s highest rates of women who smoke during pregnancy). Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs. In fact, medications of any type – even those available over-the-counter – deserve caution. Get your doctor’s approval before taking any medications or supplements.
- Watch your weight. The average woman should put on 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Gaining too much or too little weight can cause problems.
- Eat right and exercise. Eat a nutritious diet including whole-wheat carbs, healthy sources of protein and dairy and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Talk to your doctor about pregnancy-safe workouts. Swimming, walking, and yoga are good options.
- Be careful with multiple pregnancies: If you are expecting twins or triplets, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk of premature delivery.
- Spread out your pregnancies: Getting pregnant within nine months of giving birth increases your risk of premature delivery while having babies at 18-month to five-year intervals reduces that risk.
- Be alert for early labor: Symptoms of early labor include regular contractions, vaginal spotting or bleeding, and low, dull backache. If you have these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
At Baptist Health, our neonatal specialists have experience treating babies with a wide range of health conditions. We take excellent care of babies, should they be born with a routine or rare medical condition requiring extra assistance.