A full forty-week pregnancy means the baby is usually in good health, feeds well, and gains weight after Birth. A pre-term baby, born before the 37th week of pregnancy, however, may suffer from complications that require intensive care and medication. To reduce the risk of giving birth to a pre-term baby, an expectant mother should stay fit – physically as well as mentally.
Experts are looking into why 9.84% of births were preterm in 2016 in the United States, as per the National Centre for Health Statistics (1). This shows an alarming 2% increase over the previous year data. Babies born pre-term can experience distress while breathing as their lungs could only be partially developed. They also may not have developed the reflexes to suckle and swallow food. Expectant mothers should, therefore, take certain steps to reduce the chances of a pre-term birth.
Primarily, expectant mothers should be physically and mentally fit. Some women eat healthily and start going to the gym or do yoga even before they get pregnant. Nevertheless, it is important that a mommy-to-be complement that with a balanced and nutritious diet. When it comes to exercise, expectant moms can choose from a variety of activities such as swimming, yoga, brisk walking, or any such suitable exercise, after consulting with a doctor.
Another tremendously important thing a mother can do for her unborn child is to avoid the use of tobacco, alcohol, or any other drugs. Reports prepared by the National Center for Biotechnology information warn that when a pregnant woman uses tobacco or is exposed to it through secondary smoking, it can have long-term effects on the baby’s lungs or brain development (2). Women who have trouble kicking addictive habits should take the help of their doctors in doing so.
Regular visits to the doctor are mandatory for pregnant women. This way they can get updates on their general health such as their blood pressure and sugar levels, and also monitor the development of the fetus. They can get treated for any infections that may, in turn, affect the baby. Most mild infections can actually be avoided by regular hand washing, particularly in case of the expectant mother getting into close contact with young children or animals such as cats and sheep. Cat poop, in particular, is known to cause infections (3). So, pregnant women should avoid cleaning the cat tray or do it with clean gloves. Hygiene is also of paramount importance when they cook and store food, as this can go a long way in preventing stomach infections.
Above all, an expectant mother should enjoy a stress-free pregnancy. Being pregnant is a stress by itself on the woman’s body and mind. If this is not her first pregnancy and she already has a very young child, it can be very challenging. So, ideally, a woman should wait for her first child to be at least two years old before she plans to have a second child. Other stressors can be excessive work, relationship issues, and certain negative turn of events in life, any of which can cause Premature Birth. To avoid this, a pregnant woman should take conscious steps to remain stress-free by indulging in activities such as mild aerobic exercise, chatting with friends and family, and doing meditation and yoga.
Pregnant women should also be ever watchful for signs that indicate that they may deliver sooner than expected. Unusual vaginal discharge, a pressure in the lower abdomen, a backache that will not go away, cramps, and regular contractions are all signs that the expectant mother should get in touch with her doctor and take professional help to extend the period of gestation.
Expectant mothers should, in summary, be keenly aware of their physical and mental status. They should keep in touch with their doctors and keep them updated on their needs and of any problems they face. They should also take the help of friends and family in sharing their workload, motivating them to exercise and in keeping their surrounding stress free. These steps can all reduce chances of a premature birth.
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