If you are planning on growing your family, there are a few steps you should take before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy to reduce your risk of preterm labor and delivery. According to the March of Dimes, preterm birth is the leading cause of death of babies in the United States, and babies who survive preterm birth often have long-term health complications, including cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, chronic lunch disease, blindness and hearing loss.
Taking care of your body before and during pregnancy is important for all women, but especially for women who may be high-risk due to a history of preterm births, lifestyle factors, age and other existing health conditions, including high blood pressure, polycystic ovary syndrome, obesity and diabetes.
Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.
Before getting pregnant and during your pregnancy, see your healthcare provider regularly for prenatal care. Go to all of your appointments, even if you feel fine. If you take prescription drugs or use herbal supplements, ask your healthcare provider if they are safe to take before and during pregnancy.
Eat a healthy diet and stay active.
Include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet and try not to skip meals. Maintaining a healthy weight is important before becoming pregnant. Your body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy indicates how much weight you should gain while pregnant. According to the March of Dimes, weighing too much or too little can cause premature birth, birth defects and risk for diabetes and high blood pressure. Drink plenty of water and stay active. If you have questions regarding diet or exercise, speak to your healthcare provider.
Make lifestyle changes.
If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how to quit before getting pregnant. Smoking increases the risk of pregnancy complications, including premature birth. If you quit smoking, your risk of premature birth becomes similar to that of mothers who are nonsmokers. In addition to quitting smoking, avoid secondhand smoke, do not drink alcohol while trying to get pregnant or during pregnancy and do not use illegal drugs. Have an honest talk with your healthcare provider if you have a problem stopping alcohol or illegal drugs.
Take care of your mental health.
Stress can have a large effect on your body when trying to conceive. The March of Dimes states that high levels of stress may cause health problems, like high blood pressure and heart disease. When you’re pregnant, this type of stress can increase the chances of having a premature baby or a low birth weight baby. Learn strategies for reducing stress and stressors in your life.
Physical and emotional abuse is also harmful to you and your baby. If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help from your healthcare provider, family or friends. You can also get help from organizations like the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-(800)-799-SAFE (7233).