If you're having your first baby, you are probably both excited and nervous. Even though pregnancy brings a lot of joy, it can also cause you to have many concerns. One concern that some first-time mothers have is that their baby will be born before its due date. This is a valid concern as one in 10 babies in the United States are born too early.
A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. A baby is considered premature if he or she is born before 37 weeks gestation. When a baby is born too early, it can increase the risk for certain health issues. A preterm baby can also have breathing and feeding problems and will most likely require a longer hospital stay. For these reasons, it's important to do your part to ensure your baby is born full-term. Here are a few ways for women to reduce the risk of premature birth.
See an Obstetrician
As soon as you find out you're pregnant, you should see an obstetric specialist. Obstetrics is the field of medicine that focuses on pregnancy and childbirth. An obstetric specialist is also called an obstetrician. When you see an obstetrician, they will ensure that you are getting adequate prenatal care, which is important for your health as well as your baby's.
Prenatal care involves seeing the obstetrician on a regular basis throughout your pregnancy. Your obstetrician will check your blood type and Rh factor and also test for anemia and certain infections. Some tests your obstetrician may order include amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS), both of which can help detect birth defects. Other tests include glucose tolerance tests, nonstress tests, ultrasound exams, and urine tests.
Another way to reduce the risk of a premature birth is to stay as healthy as possible during your pregnancy. This involves maintaining a healthy weight as obesity can increase the risk of premature birth. The amount of healthy weight gain during pregnancy largely depends upon your BMI before becoming pregnant. For example, if your BMI was 18.5 to 24.9, you should only gain between 25 to 35 pounds.
To stay healthy, you should also exercise, take your prenatal vitamins, which include folic acid and iron, and eat plenty of nutritious foods. Some of the best foods to eat during pregnancy include dairy products, legumes, sweet potatoes, salmon, eggs, whole grains, berries, and dark, leafy greens. It's also important to stay hydrated, which means drinking adequate amounts of water.