Importance of a Full Nine-Month Pregnancy
Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Thur., January 22, 2009
By Dr. Judy Bliss
MORE WOMEN ARE giving birth too soon. A shorter pregnancy may sound pleasant to some expectant mothers, but it risks causing their infants lifelong disability and even an early death.
Expectant mothers are usually eager to deliver toward the end of pregnancy. Relatives and neighbors may talk about their premature baby who had no health complications. However, each pregnancy is unique and a baby´s health is not worth the risk of an early forced delivery if it is avoidable.
Newborns are considered premature if a pregnancy does not last the normal 37-42 weeks (about nine months).
Premature births have risen by about 30 percent in the United States since 1981. According to March of Dimes, 10 percent (1 in 10) of newborns are born too soon in California. Here in Contra Costa County, the number is slightly better, at 7 percent (1 in 14).
Although the severity of the health risk depends on how early a baby is born, all premature babies are at some risk of developing health problems, which may include:
Babies born 10 weeks too soon are at a much higher risk than babies born one week too soon. One-third of babies born before 28 weeks will die during or shortly after labor. Another third will have a significant disability, and the last third is likely to have some type of disability.
A recent study shows that more than 70 percent of preterm babies are born just a few weeks before a full term. Even late preterm babies, born between week 34 and 36, are three times more likely than full-term babies to develop cerebral palsy.
Because premature births are one of the leading causes of death in infants, it is important to start making lifestyle changes now if you are at risk of delivering early.
What can women do to help avoid a premature delivery and birth defects? If you might or are trying to become pregnant, you should:
Women who are more prone to delivering early include those who:
It is especially important for these women to establish care with their doctor before becoming pregnant, or right away once they become pregnant.
For more information about premature births and how to receive free or low-cost prenatal care, visit www.cchealth.org.
Bliss practices obstetrics and gynecology at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez. Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.