October is coming to a close, and November – Prematurity Awareness Month- is right around the corner. Premature birth is a leading cause of infant death in the United States.
Premature birth is defined as a birth occurring before 37 weeks gestation. Being born preterm can prevent many important fetal growth and developmental milestones for babies. Babies who are born preterm may spend significant amounts of time hospitalized in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), and they may face lifelong health and developmental problems.
In 2014, 1 in 10 babies born in the US were born premature. According to the CDC, many factors can contribute to preterm birth, including:
- Previous preterm birth
- Being pregnant with more than one baby (twins, triplets, or more)
- Problems with the uterus or cervix
- Chronic health problems in the mother, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and clotting disorders
- Certain infections during pregnancy
- Cigarette smoking, alcohol use, or illegal drug use during pregnancy
For moms in Shelby County, there are resources for addressing some of these factors. 17P, a progesterone injection, is available for women who are at risk of preterm birth. The Shelby County Tobacco Prevention program can be helpful for moms who want to quit smoking. Additionally, any primary care physician or OBGYN can help mothers understand and assess their risks associated with preterm delivery and work towards having healthy and full-term pregnancies.
The March of Dimes has information regarding preterm birth and what you can do to help prevent it!