Prematurity Explained

How Can I Reduce My Chance of Preterm Labor?

prenatal checkup

Even if you do everything right, you may still deliver prematurely. Of course, that's not what you want to hear! But you can reduce your risk by taking good care of yourself before and during pregnancy.

If you're planning a pregnancy, see your doctor for a preconception checkup. She can identify health risks, such as STDs, that may contribute to preterm labor. Also make sure that health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, are under control. If you've delivered prematurely before, your doctor can inject you during pregnancy with progesterone, a hormone that might reduce your risk of having another early birth.

You should also work toward reaching a healthy weight before becoming pregnant -- overweight or underweight women are more likely to go into early labor. Quit smoking now, and start a regular exercise routine.

When you get pregnant, your prenatal appointments serve as regular checkups -- your doctor can detect and treat any problem, such as a urinary tract infection, that could contribute to preterm labor. Eat a well-balanced diet and gain the recommended weight: 25 to 35 pounds for women who start pregnancy at a normal weight and 15 to 25 pounds for overweight women. Weight gain within this range significantly cuts risk of premature delivery. And be sure to take a prenatal vitamin daily. It contains folic acid, and studies show that taking this B vitamin before and during pregnancy provides many benefits: cutting your risk of premature delivery in half; reducing the risk for certain brain and spinal cord defects; supporting the rapid growth of the placenta and fetus; and aiding in the production of new DNA as cells multiply.

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