By Carolina Boyd
Pregnancy is a time of joy for many expectant moms. But for those who experience complications during pregnancy, it can lead to the heartache of preterm labor. November is National Prematurity Awareness Month, a time to focus on this maternal and infant health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in every 10 babies is born preterm (before 37 weeks).
“Babies born prematurely are at risk for problems resulting from incomplete development of the organs. These complications can result in lifelong consequences or even death,” said Dr. Wendi Monthy, Medical Director of OB/GYN at Legacy Community Health.
The longer a baby is able to develop in the womb, especially during the last few weeks of pregnancy, the fewer health complications he or she will face.
“Babies born prematurely often have difficulty keeping warm, breathing problems, heart problems, infection, digestive system problems, bleeding in the brain, or jaundice,” said Dr. Monthy.
There are factors that increase the risk of preterm birth. Those include:
- Age of mother
- Tobacco or drug use
- History of cervical surgery
- Uterine abnormalities
- Certain infections
- History of preterm delivery in prior pregnancy
“If risk factors are identified, there are ways to monitor for this and there are even medications that may be used to help prevent preterm birth in certain circumstances,” said Dr. Monthy.
Risk factors for premature births can vary by race and ethnicities. In 2018, the CDC reported that the rate of preterm births among African-American women was about 50 percent higher than the rate in white women. African-American women are also three to four times more likely to die from birth complications.
If your OB/GYN provider determines that you’re at increased risk of preterm labor, he or she might recommend ways to promote a healthier pregnancy such as regular prenatal visits, eating a healthy diet, and/or better managing chronic illnesses like diabetes. Call 832-548-5000 to schedule an appointment with your Legacy OB/GYN provider.