Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November is Prematurity Awareness Month

It seems like everything has a month doesn't it?  Well this month is an important one to us.  November is prematurity awareness month and November 17th is world prematurity day.

One evolving goal of this blog and telling our story is to inform others,  give hope to others, and learn from others.  This month we will spend some time doing all of those things.

1 in 8 babies in the United States is born prematurely (prior to 37 weeks gestation).  Prematurity obviously presents greater risks the earlier the baby is born and the smaller the baby, however any baby born before 37 weeks is at much greater risk for complications than a baby born full term.  The most important way of avoiding a premature birth is knowing the risk factors and signs of premature labor.

I believe that alot of good OB care, a whole lot of luck and prayers, and some momma intuition saved Virginia from being born even earlier than 25 weeks.  Not only did a month of bedrest buy us the most critical weeks, but it meant that we were as prepared as we could be for Virginia's early birth, both medically and emotionally.  I received steroids, magnesium, and antibiotics; all which were critical to Virginia's optimal outcome.  

We never expected Virginia to be born early, but I knew the risk factors that I had (a previous uterine surgery),  I knew the signs of premature labor (I really had none, but had some Braxton Hick contractions earlier than "normal"),  and didn't hesitate to seek help from my OB team when I thought things were a little "off".    Virginia's birth story explains how it all happened, but in short knowing the risk factors, knowing the signs, and following my gut was critical to our story.

If you are pregnant please learn the risk factors.  Listen to your body closely and do not hesitate to seek your Doctor's help if you are concerned about anything.

Risk Factors for Premature Birth:

Women are at greatest risk for premature labor if:
They are pregnant with multiples
They have had a previous premature birth
They have certain uterine or cervical abnormalities

Medical risk factors include:
Recurring bladder and/or kidney infections
Urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, and sexually transmitted infections
Infection with fever greater than 101 degrees F during pregnancy
Unexplained vaginal bleeding after 20 weeks of pregnancy
Chronic illness such as high blood pressure, kidney disease or diabetes
Multiple first trimester abortions or one or more second trimester abortions
Underweight or overweight before pregnancy
Clotting disorder (thrombophilia)
Being pregnant with a single fetus after in vitro fertilization (IVF)
Short time between pregnancies (less than 6-9 months between birth and beginning of the next pregnancy)

Lifestyle risks for premature labor include:
Little or no prenatal care
Drinking alcohol
Using illegal drugs
Domestic violence, including physical, sexual or emotional abuse
Lack of social support
High levels of stress
Low income
Long working hours with long periods of standing

Signs of Premature Labor:

Contractions (your belly tightens like a fist) every 10 minutes or more often
Change in vaginal discharge
Pelvic pressure—the feeling that your baby is pushing down
Low, dull backache
Menstrual like cramps

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