Moms-to-be expect pregnancy to last for nine months, but that isn't always the case. In fact, rates of preterm births have increased by nearly 30 percent since 1981, according to Parenting Magazine. That means that nearly 500,000 babies are born each year before the 37-week mark.
While medical breakthroughs mean that a preemie has a greater chance of survival and even better health these days, it's still one of the leading causes of death in newborns. Of course, moms want to do all that they can to avoid going into labor too early. But they might be surprised by some of the things that can start contractions long before they are expected. For example, the things that mom eats and how much water she drinks can be a problem. Something as innocent as a foot massage or as unexpected as a fall could set things in motion, and while the doctors might be able to stall things, there is a possibility of a premature and very tiny and vulnerable baby.
We know that moms want to try to keep their baby healthy and growing inside them for nine months so that the little one has the best shot at life. This guide might help. Here are 20 things moms don't realize will send them into a very early labor.
20 Not Drinking Enough Water
Moms need to be really careful during pregnancy to make sure that they don't get dehydrated. For some, the danger is in the first trimester when their morning sickness is at its most severe, but later on, moms who don't drink enough water can face other issues.
Dehydration can kick off contractions and maybe even cause premature labor, although many women can curtail the situation and avoid premature birth if they are sure to drink a lot of water and relax. This can be most common during the warmer summer months, so moms need to be careful and keep their fluid levels high.
19 Foot Massages
This one is a little bit debatable, but many massage therapists and reflexologists believe that there could be a big problem if a mom-to-be gets a foot massage. There are some pressure points in the foot that are believed to cause labor, so much so that women consider it a possible way to induce the birth naturally in the last few months.
Women who are worried about having a preemie might consider skipping a pedicure because of the possibility. Most of the time at-home massages are fine, but dads might want to research pressure points to know which ones to avoid.
18 Eating Too Much Pineapple
There are a lot of foods that women are advised to avoid during pregnancy because they could harm the baby. But there is another that some women might need to add to the list if they have concerns about having a premature baby. Pineapple is a possible trigger for uterine contractions.
Most doctors say that it's okay if a woman consumes a little bit of the tropical fruit, but if a mom is having a major craving, it could be a problem. Some moms try to eat it late in pregnancy to bring on contractions, but it's best to avoid a big serving to avoid early labor.
17 Premature Rupture Of Membranes
Research has provided a lot of answers in terms of the risks for pre-term labor. We haven't mentioned it, but there are other factors that make it more likely for moms, such as their age and even race. Sometimes, though, it can happen and the doctors have no explanation why.
If contractions begin early, there are some things that doctors can try to forestall the delivery and try to help with the baby's lung development. But there are times when the mom's water breaks and they can't figure out why. The risk of infection goes up really quickly from there, and it's unlikely the sac will seal again. That means that the delivery will happen soon, and the baby could be born really early.
16 Baby's Health
Sometimes the doctor can get clued in on the possibility of an early labor while doing an ultrasound. That's because he will get a more in-depth look at the baby's health, and for little ones with distinct differences, there is a greater likelihood of an earlier debut.
There are a number of complications that might cause the baby to come sooner than full-term. If the baby is struggling to grow in the womb, doctors often believe that it's safer to go ahead and delivery and deal with the consequences of early delivery rather than risk the baby's health.
15 Skipping The Condom
It's not often that pregnant women have to think about condoms. But for some women, there is a possibility that skipping the protection could be even more problematic than they would expect—even if they are monogamous and infection-free—if it comes too early in pregnancy.
Many moms might think that we are talking infection, but we've already talked about that. The truth is that the researchers have found that sperm might actually be a trigger for contractions. It's likely a sensitivity that some women have but not all, but that might be hard to figure out — until a premature baby has already arrived.
14 Skipping The Salmon
Moms get a lot of mixed messages when it comes to fish. Doctors have concerns about the possibility of mercury poisoning if moms eat too much of certain kinds of fish, and moms should definitely skip sushi and sashimi. But they shouldn't skip the salmon.
According to Parenting Magazine, some studies show that women who have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to give birth early. Salmon is a great source of the brain-building compound, so moms should add it to their weekly meal plan. The publication also suggests that moms-to-be boost their vitamin-C and calcium intake to help as well.
13 Mental Health Triggers
Pregnancy can be a very emotional time for a woman. But on top of that, the hormones that are in play can actually trigger some mental health issues that might have never happened before. Even though moms might be looking for depression and anxiety symptoms in the postpartum period, they can pop up during pregnancy — and they can cause more issues than you might expect.
Doctors have linked depression and anxiety in mothers to preterm labor. They aren't sure of the cause, but it could be related to the hormonal response. That is another reason why doctors recommend that women receive treatment during pregnancy because it can help the mom and the baby.
12 Gum Disease
Pregnancy can be pretty rough on a woman's dental health. That might seem surprising, but an old wives' tale has dated back generations saying that when women gain a baby, they lose a tooth. And even worse, it could mean premature death.
Researchers have recently linked periodontal issues to premature birth, which means that women need to be careful to fight gum disease. It's an infection that could impact other organs, including the heart. So moms definitely need to do all they can to take care of their teeth and gums, as good oral health can help the baby make it to term.
11 Special Teas Might Trigger Contractions
Moms might like to enjoy some relaxing teas during pregnancy, but they need to be careful about that. It's not just because of the caffeine, which can impact the baby's development. The wrong kind of tea could mean that the mom goes into preterm labor.
Ginger teas and raspberry leaf tea are considered beneficial during pregnancy. But moms should make sure that their tea does not include St. John's Wort, Ginseng, Yarrow, Pennyroyal, or licorice root. Although there isn't a lot of research on many of the varieties, some could cause contractions, so steer clear if you are in danger of an early delivery.
10 Stimulation Up Top
We've already mentioned some places below the belt that can have an impact on when the baby comes. But there is a place up top that can also make a big difference. Many moms don't want to be touched in their bra area anyway, since they can be sore during pregnancy but there is another reason to keep hands off.
The tips can be especially sensitive during pregnancy. In fact, they can start off a chain reaction that might mean that the baby is on its way. That's okay at 40 weeks, but moms might want to warn their partners if the due date is still a few months away.
9 The Big O
For most families, it's perfectly healthy for mom and dad to continue their relationship as it was before they got pregnant. We don't want to discourage any women from continuing that important part of being a couple, but the truth is that for some it could be a trigger for premature birth.
Once again, this is something that moms are encouraged to do to induce labor after 40 weeks. But it can be surprising for some when the big O induces contractions so early on. Some moms are put on bed rest and told to wait until after the birth because of the risk.
8 Bad Habits
There are a number of bad habits that women are told can have very bad risks for the baby, and many quit for the first trimester to ensure the baby's health. But there can be an issue in the second and third trimester as well, so moms shouldn't pick it back up.
Consuming some harmful things can mean that the mom's body isn't healthy, and that could mean that she goes into labor too early. The baby is also more likely to be underdeveloped, so he's more likely to struggle, especially if he is born early. So moms need to kick their vices for good.
7 Getting Hit In The Belly
Moms have to be really careful when they are pregnant because any harm that happens to them could mean that they end up going into labor early and possibly having the baby prematurely. This can be something like a car accident or any other trauma that has the potential for the placenta to detach or another complication to happen.
This is one reason that doctors recommend that women abstain from contact sports during pregnancy. While the baby bump can be resilient, there is a possibility of early labor, and that can be mean that the baby is vulnerable and has to fight for his life.
6 What Happened During Grandma's Pregnancy?
A lot of women are aware that if they have their first baby prematurely, they should take precautions so that the second one can keep cooking for longer. But they may not be aware that their own birth story—as in, the one from when they were born—can also give a clue.
According to research studies, family history can give a woman some idea of how her birth experience might go. If their mom gave birth early, there is a greater chance that they will. Moms should be sure to minimize other risks and be prepared in case labor comes a lot earlier than expected.
5 An Infection Down Below
A woman's health down below is really important in getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. It could also make a big impact on making sure that the mom avoids an early labor and a delivery long before the baby is supposed to be here.
According to Parenting Magazine, doctors say that a woman is more likely to have premature contractions if she has one of a number of infections in the area where the baby comes out. That includes things that can happen with promiscuous behavior as well as normal infections, including urinary tract infections. If that area isn't at its top shape, the baby might be making his debut early.
4 Falling Down
Falling usually isn't a really big deal when you are young. It's normal to trip and stumble a little, but for pregnant women, it can be dangerous and send them into early labor. Unfortunately, falling is more common when you are pregnant because the growing baby bump can make the mom's center of gravity shift around for nine months.
The risk of falling is one reason why women are encouraged to give up their stilettos or other heels during pregnancy. Their ligaments also loosen, which can mean that their ankles are less stable. It's also why moms-to-be are discouraged from things like skiing and horseback riding where balance can be an issue and falls can be harrowing.
3 Size Matters
Moms think about size as a symptom of pregnancy, but they don't tend to think about how it can impact the process, especially in terms of how healthy things go. The truth is that it can change everything, especially if the mom is heavier or lighter before she gets pregnant.
It's also important to be healthy when gaining during the pregnancy, and the recommendation changes based on where the mom starts. This might be one of the hardest guidelines to stick to for some pregnant women, but health in this area can mean that the baby has a delivery that comes at the right time.
2 Some Meds Might Be A Factor
We mentioned earlier that there are some mental health issues that could increase the mom's risk of preterm labor, but the bad news is that there are times when the meds used to treat them could also be bad news.
Meds known as tricyclic antidepressants are safe, but the more popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been linked to an elevated risk of giving birth early. Doctors say that it's better to have anxiety and depression treated than to go without meds, but it's possible that the doctor would want to switch to safer meds for the duration of the pregnancy.
1 Major Stress
All women go through a lot of stress during pregnancy between the medical worries, financial pressures and hormones that heighten emotions. But at times there are stressful moments that go beyond the normal levels, and those can put a woman into an early labor.
Research has linked major life events such as a death in the family, divorce, and others to cause issues in the pregnancy. And things like tornadoes and fires can be so stressful that they can put the mom into labor, even if it's way too soon. Many times moms can't avoid those major events, so they might have to do their best to raise a preemie.
Sources: WebMD, Parenting