Imagine the following: you’re pregnant . . . not due to have your baby for two more months, but suddenly you find yourself having contractions. You rush to the hospital in a panic where you find out your baby girl is coming and there’s no stopping it. Two months early
The delivery is a success, but your baby – a tiny, tiny version of the newborn you had envisioned – is in critical condition. The doctors are doing everything in their power to save her, but there’s no guarantee.
Fortunately, your baby survives this too-soon birth.
Unfortunately, your child has a much greater chance of dying an early death as an adult . . . maybe even before you
go to your grave.What We Knew
It’s always been known that premature babies
have a higher risk of death in the first year. But experts always thought that the risk decreased as the child got older. Turns out that’s not necessarily the case.What We Know NOW
Dr. Casey Crump of Stanford University, and his colleagues, used a database of 67,000 people born in Sweden in the 1970s to investigate the death rates. What they discovered was quite interesting. “We found that people who were born preterm had a higher risk of dying in young adulthood than those who were born full-term.” Crump goes on to say that “the risk of mortality increased the earlier in pregnancy that one was born.”
Crump’s research suggested that a baby born even just a couple weeks early had an increased risk of death later in life. The causes of death was due to various causes, including respiratory problems, endocrine conditions, and heart disease.
A Rise in Premature Births
While advancements in science in medicine have allowed more premature babies to survive an early birth, studies have shown that premature births in the United States are much more common than a few decades ago. And, a study published by the World Health Organization estimated that globally 10 percent of babies are born prematurely. Prevention is Key
The findings of this most recent research point to the fact that prenatal care is key in the prevention of a premature birth. While some early births simply cannot be avoided, there are steps you can take to take care of both yourself and your unborn child.
- Seek regular prenatal care.
- Make sure you’re eating healthy foods and getting essential vitamins and minerals.
- Work with your healthcare provider to manage any chronic conditions (such as diabetes or high blood pressure).
- Follow your doctor’s advice in regards to physical activity.
- Avoid risky substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, and recreational drugs. Secondhand smoke is dangerous as well, and even some medications may be off-limits.
- Limit the amount of stress you’re exposed to.
- Take care of your teeth! Some studies have shown that gum disease can contribute to preterm labor.
The important thing to remember is that having a preterm baby does not automatically mean a death sentence – either in the first year or later in life. With the advances in medicine, anything is possible . . . and that includes having a child that lives a happy, healthy, full life.