Prematurity Awareness Month: What You Need to Know
Every year, about 15 million babies around the globe are born prematurely. In the US, it’s estimated that about 400,000 babies will be preterm this year. Many of these infants and/or their mothers will struggle with health complications that are directly related to premature birth. Although modern medicine has evolved significantly during the last century, preterm birth rates continue to rise.
As widespread as this global health issue is, many people remain in the dark about prematurity. However, November is Prematurity Awareness Month, which gives healthcare professionals an opportunity to educate the public about this serious issue. Here are some facts about premature birth that you should know.
Premature Birth Facts
1. A full-term pregnancy is defined as being about 40 weeks long.
Babies born before the 37th week are considered premature. Premature birth is split into three categories:
- Moderate to late preterm, when a baby is born between 32 and 37 weeks
- Very preterm, when a baby is born between 28 and 32 weeks
- Extremely preterm, when a baby is born before 28 weeks
2. Common risk factors for having a premature birth include:
- Having a history of premature births
- Being pregnant with multiple babies
- Taking part in risky behaviors, such as drinking alcohol or smoking
- Having a chronic medical condition
- Having an infection during pregnancy
3. Premature babies are more likely to develop certain issues, including intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, breathing problems, or vision issues.
4. There are several signs that indicate that a pregnant woman might be going into labor. These signs include:
- Pressure in the lower abdomen or pelvis
- Pain or discomfort that is similar to a menstrual cramp
- Regular contractions
- Persistent aching in the lower back
- Change in vaginal discharge
5. Whether you’re at risk or not, having a premature-birth plan can be immensely helpful if you find yourself suddenly faced with the reality that you are about to give birth prematurely.
Because premature babies need specialized care, it’s important that you work with a hospital that is experienced with treating premature babies.
6. Although you can’t control every factor that can possibly cause premature birth, there are some things that are within your control that can help reduce your risk of giving birth prematurely, including:
- Not smoking
- Seeking out prenatal care throughout all phases of pregnancy
- Being aware of the signs of premature labor
- Talking to your doctor about any chronic conditions you have
7. Some of the most brilliant and talented people throughout history were born prematurely.
This list includes historical figures such as Victor Hugo, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Sydney Poitier, and Isaac Newton.
How Can I Help?
Whether you’re an individual advocate, an organization, a lawmaker, or a political candidate, we all have the power to help improve the health of mothers and infants. You can make a donation to the March of Dimes or participate in the #BlanketChange movement on social media. Together, we can create hope and save lives.