Pregnancy is a beautiful, magical, and stressful thing to experience. Growing new life is definitely amazing, but some moms-to-be spend their pregnancies stressing about all of the things that could possibly go wrong. One of the main things many expecting women fear is delivering their babies prematurely.
According to MayoClinic.org, “A premature birth is a birth that takes place more than three weeks before the baby's estimated due date. In other words, a premature birth is one that occurs before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy." Babies born too soon tend to have a variety of medical problems from the start. As Mayo Clinic continues saying, "Typically, complications of prematurity vary. But the earlier [a] baby is born, the higher the risk of complications.”
Babies born early are at a greater risk of dealing with complications or spending time in the NICU after delivery, and medical professionals do all they can to make sure expecting women keep their babies in the womb as long as possible. Many of the factors that contribute to premature births can be controlled, while many others are out of a mom-to-be’s hands.
While some premature births cannot be prevented, there are things expecting women can do to lower their chances of giving birth before their due dates. Read on for 20 ways mom doesn’t realize she’s growing a premature baby.
20 Her Reproductive Organs Are Abnormal
MayoClinic.org explains that a woman who has an abnormal uterus, cervix or placenta is at a greater risk of experiencing a premature delivery. Reproductive abnormalities vary in severity, and can often be treated when caught early. Some of these abnormalities include placenta previa (Baby’s placenta partially or completely covers the cervix), placenta accreta (abnormalities of the lining of the uterus), a bicornuate (heart shaped) womb, a unicornuate womb, a didelphic womb, a septate/subseptate womb, or an arcuate womb.
Speaking about abnormalities of the womb, Tommys.com states, “Most women are unaware that they may have an abnormally shaped womb when they become pregnant.”
19 She Has Bad Health Habits
Clara Bradizza, a senior research scientist at the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions explains, “For some women, early pregnancy can be stressful, and we know that stress can make it more difficult to quit [unhealthy habits].” Various unhealthy behaviors including eating certain foods and consuming other addictive substances can cause a mom-to-be’s baby to arrive prematurely.
According to Marci Lobel, a psychology professor and director of the social and health psychology program at Stony Brook University, “We know that the success of fertility and a successful pregnancy is dependent on taking good care of oneself during those childbearing years.”
18 She Has Delivered Early Before
According to VeryWellFamily.com, “Previous preterm birth is one of the biggest risk factors for having another premature infant. The risk goes up when mothers have had more than one premature birth and, and goes down when mothers have a term pregnancy after a preterm birth.”
The site continues, “A mom of one preemie has about a 15 percent chance of having another; a mom who has had two preemies has about a 40 percent chance of having another, and a mom who has had three preemies has almost a 70 percent chance of having another premature birth. It’s important to note that these numbers only relate to moms who had a spontaneous preterm delivery.”
17 She’s In An Unhealthy Relationship
A recent study published by researchers from the University of Iowa found that being in an unhealthy relationship with a romantic partner while expecting is “significantly associated with” preterm birth. According to DomesticShelters.org, the study found that moms-to-be who were in unhealthy romantic relationships were up to two times as likely to deliver preterm babies.
Wanda Filer, M.D., told the site, “Different people cope differently with stress...When a woman is pregnant, she is developing a relationship with, and focusing on, this new baby.” It has been determined that when a woman is not able to focus on her impending arrival due to stress in her romantic relationship, preterm delivery may be the result.
16 She’s Pregnant With More Than One Baby
With every additional baby an expecting mom is carrying, her risk of delivering her baby early increases. AmericanPregnancy.org states, “On average, most [solo] pregnancies last 39 weeks, twin pregnancies 36 weeks, triplets 32 weeks, quadruplets 30 weeks and quintuplets 29 weeks. Almost 60 percent of twins are delivered preterm, while 90 percent of triplets are preterm.”
The risk of complications after delivery also increases with each additional baby a woman is carrying in her womb. The site also explains, “Of all the types of multiple births, twins normally face the fewest medical problems and complications. Each additional baby a woman carries during her pregnancy increases the possibility of developing pregnancy complications.”
15 She Got Pregnant Too Soon After Giving Birth
Getting pregnant too soon after giving birth could put a woman at a greater risk for having a premature baby. According to MarchofDimes.org, “It’s best to wait at least 18 months (1.5 years) between giving birth and getting pregnant again. Too little time between pregnancies increases [the] risk of a premature birth. The shorter the time between pregnancies the higher [the] risk.”
The site continues, “[A woman’s body] needs time to fully recover from [her] last pregnancy before it’s ready for [the] next pregnancy. Experts don’t know for sure why getting pregnant again too soon increases [the] chances of premature birth and other health problems.”
14 She’s Spotting
Anytime a woman sees spotting during pregnancy, there is a chance her baby will arrive prematurely. According to AmericanPregnancy.org, “Spotting is a common concern that many pregnant women face. Approximately 20 percent of women report they experience spotting during their first 12 weeks of pregnancy.”
The site also states, “[Spotting] during pregnancy...is not always a cause for concern. The majority of women who experience spotting during pregnancy go on to have a healthy pregnancy. However, it is important to discuss spotting...with [a] doctor.” Usually, moms-to-be are encouraged to take it easy until spotting resolves and to seek help if it gets worse.
13 The Fetus Isn’t Developing Correctly
According to StanfordChildrens.org, “factors involving the fetus” may be a cause of preterm delivery. The site explains that a premature birth may result “when fetal behavior indicates the intrauterine environment is not healthy” or in cases of “erythroblastosis fetalis (Rh/group incompatibility).” Some examples include spina bifida, cleft palate, clubfoot, congenital dislocated hip, Down syndrome, and microcephaly.
Many different things can go wrong in the course of a fetus’s development, and may contribute to the risk of premature birth. Oftentimes, moms-to-be and medical professionals do not learn of a problem with a fetus until after the baby has arrived prematurely.
12 She Has High BP
According to MarchofDimes.org, “Some women have high BP before they get pregnant. Others have high BP for the first time during pregnancy. About eight in 100 women (eight percent) have some kind of high BP during pregnancy.”
Along with premature birth, high BP can cause a variety of different complications including preeclampsia, low birth [size], and placental abruption. The likelihood of needing a C-section also increases when a mom-to-be has high BP. The site continues, “Even with treatment, a pregnant woman with severe high BP or preeclampsia may need to give birth early to avoid serious health problems for [herself] and her baby.”
11 She Has An Infection
An infection of one kind or another can often contribute to a mom-to-be delivering her baby early. According to HealthLine.com, “Any infection can lead to rupture of membranes and preterm labor. More than 12 percent of infants born in the US are premature. Forty percent of those births are associated with infections.”
The site continues, “If a pregnant woman is [introduced] to infection agents during pregnancy, the consequences to the fetus can be dire... Intrauterine infections get to the baby through the mother’s [fluids] and across the placenta. Intrauterine infections can be caused by rubella (measles), toxoplasmosis (from cat feces), UTIs [and many other factors].”
10 She Has Diabetes
Women who have diabetes before becoming pregnant are at a higher risk for preterm birth. Gestational diabetes—insulin resistance brought on by pregnancy—is another complication that increases a mom-to-be’s risk of delivering a premature baby. According to MarchofDimes.org, “Women with gestational diabetes can and do have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. If untreated, gestational diabetes can cause problems for your baby, like premature birth.”
There are things moms-to-be with diabetes or GD can do to decrease their chances of delivering early. The site advises the body's “sugar is affected by pregnancy, what you eat and drink, [and] how much physical activity you get. You may need to eat differently and be more active.”
9 She’s Younger Than 18
Moms-to-be under the age of 18 are at an increased risk of delivering their babies prematurely. Lack of support, inadequate nutrition, and limited access to proper medical care are common problems for expecting teens, and all contribute to the possibility of a premature delivery.
According to WebMD.com, “Pregnant teens and their unborn babies have unique medical risks...Teenage girls who are pregnant—especially if they don’t have support from their parents—are at risk of not getting adequate prenatal care. Prenatal care is critical, especially in the first months of pregnancy. Prenatal care screens for medical problems in both mother and baby, monitors the baby’s growth and deals quickly with any complications that arise.”
8 She’s Older Than 35
According to MarchofDimes.org, “Being pregnant after age 35 makes certain complications more likely, including premature birth, birth defects and getting pregnant with multiples. As you get older, you’re more likely than younger women to have certain health conditions that can cause complications before, during and after pregnancy.”
The site advises that women who get pregnant after the age of 35 may be able to reduce their risk of delivering a baby prematurely, along with other possible complications, by going to prenatal care check-ups regularly, living a healthy lifestyle, avoiding harmful substances, and ignoring chemicals that may be harmful to an impending arrival.
7 She Has A Lack Of Emotional Support
Pregnancy is difficult for many women. The experience can be extremely physically and emotionally taxing for a mom-to-be. When expecting women have a lack of emotional support, they are more likely to struggle with feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. This puts them at a greater risk for giving birth prematurely.
According to Tommys.org, “Women who are stressed or depressed seem to be at higher risk of giving birth prematurely. It could be because they are less likely to lead healthy lifestyles. Mental wellbeing is difficult to assess—not least because we all have different stress thresholds—but some factors linked with psychological distress have been linked [to] premature birth.”
6 She Works Long Hours
Many expecting women must work to support themselves and their growing families. In many cases, they must remain employed throughout their pregnancies in order to secure insurance to assist with the expenses associated with labor and delivery.
According to WebMD.com, “Physically taxing work conditions—like prolonged standing, heavy lifting and night work—may increase a woman’s risk of having a problem pregnancy, say researchers who reviewed many studies of the issue. The risks of such work, the researchers found, include premature babies.” The study’s author, Ellen Mozurkewich, M.D., told WebMD, “Preterm birth is a huge problem…Working conditions may not be the largest contributor to preterm birth in the US, but it is another contributor.”
5 She’s Been Introduced To Certain Pollutants
A recent study conducted by NYU Langone’s Division of Environmental Pediatrics concluded that air pollution can be attributed to some preterm births. Researchers in the study found that just a little over 3 percent of preterm births (approximately 16,000 babies) in the US were caused by exposure to air pollution.
Med.NYU.Edu states, “Exposure to air pollution in pregnancy has been associated with risk of premature, or preterm, birth by increasing toxic chemicals in the [plasma] and causing immune system stress, which can weaken the placenta surrounding the fetus and lead to preterm birth. This, in turn, raises the baby’s risk of health complications, both in the short and long term.”
4 She’s Stressed
According to MarchofDimes.org, “Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy. But too much stress can make [a mom-to-be] uncomfortable. Stress can make [her] have trouble sleeping, have headaches, lose [her] appetite or overeat.”
The site continues, “High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems like high BP and heart disease. When [a woman] is pregnant, this type of stress can increase the chances of having a premature baby.” Changing hormones, the discomforts of pregnancy, depression, long work hours, anxiety about impending labor and delivery and a hectic lifestyle can all lead to stress during pregnancy.
3 Her Ethnicity May Play A Role
Experts in the fields of maternity care, labor, and delivery aren’t sure why but have reported that certain ethnicities may be at a higher risk of delivering a baby prematurely.
According to MayoClinic.org, “For unknown reasons, [women of color] are more likely to experience premature birth than" others. However, we need to remember that premature births can happen to any woman, no matter their ethnicity or where they came from. Things can happen within the womb unknown to the woman, and there are a variety of outdoor factors that can also affect a new mama. Soon-to-be moms should call their doctors if they notice anything that seems off.
2 Eating More Than Anticipated
LiveScience.com recently reported on a new study from Sweden. According to the site, the study found that “women who are obese during pregnancy may be at increased risk of giving birth too early." The study showed that those who didn't try to maintain a healthy lifestyle while pregnant were more likely to give birth to pemature babies.
The Institute of Med. recommends that pregnant women gain between 25 and 35 pounds to maintain a healthy pregnancy, anything over can be cause for concern for both the unborn baby and the mom. And while every pregnancy and symptom is different for women around the world, trying to live a cleaner lifestyle while pregnant could make all the difference.
1 She’s Thin
According to FitPregnancy.com, “We hear a lot about how important it is not to [over eat] when trying to conceive and to only gain a healthy amount during pregnancy, but less attention is given to the problems associated with being [thin]." The site explains that studies were performed on pregnant women who were under-sized and that "two of the three major risk factors for preterm birth" affected women who weren't the proper size for their height.
Emily DeFranco, D.O., a physician-researcher at the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where the study was conducted told the site, “The highest risks for premature birth were in women who were [under eating], had poor gains during pregnancy, or short periods of time between pregnancies.”
Sources: AmericanPregnancy.org, MayoClinic.org, Healthy.USNews.com, LiveScience.com, FitPregnancy.com, StanfordChildrens.org, MarchofDimes.org, HealthLine.com, WebMD.com, DomesticShelters.org, Med.NYU.edu, Tommys.org