Among the list of worries for expectant moms is usually preterm labor. Preterm labor is when a mother goes into labor prematurely before her 37th week of pregnancy. Having a baby too early may mean the baby is not fully developed in several key areas and may lead to birth defects, physical abnormalities (such as heart defects, respiratory problems or underdeveloped organs), mental impairments or behavioral problems in infants and children. Preterm labor occurs in approximately 12% of pregnancies. Some causes of preterm labor are known, while others remain a mystery. However, there are some factors that put moms and babies more at risk.
Today are looking at 10 risk factors of preterm labor:
1 – Pregnant with Multiples
Women giving birth to two or more babies are highly likely to deliver early. OBs often schedule c-sections for moms of multiples but sometimes mothers go into labor on their own prior to 37 weeks.
2 – Unhealthy Weight during Pregnancy
Moms-to-be who are either underweight or overweight during pregnancy have higher rates of preterm labor. Being underweight may mean the baby is not getting proper nutrients. Being overweight can put added strain on the baby as well as the mother’s body. The recommended weight gain for a single pregnancy is 25-35 lbs.
3 – Abnormalities or Infections in the Lower Abdomen
If the cervix, uterus or vagina are compromised, risk of preterm labor is increased. Also, bladder, vaginal or kidney infections or STDs can have the same effect. Mothers who have regular OB check-ups during pregnancy will be aware of these risk factors so they can be monitored closely.
4 – Smoking, Drinking and Drug Abuse
Expectant mothers who drink, smoke and use drugs during pregnancy are putting their babies at extreme risk, not only of preterm labor, but also many other substance abuse related birth defects.
5 – Chronic or Severe Short Term Illness
Women suffering from diabetes – even gestational diabetes – clotting disorders, high blood pressure, kidney disease or other chronic illnesses may be prone to preterm labor. Also, if a mother gets sick and has a fever higher than 101 degrees F, she is at risk of preterm labor.
6 – Short Time Span between Pregnancies
A repeat pregnancy within six to nine months of giving birth puts moms at increased risk of preterm labor. Pregnancy creates a great strain on the body and it needs time to recuperate after childbirth. Having babies too close together can cause complications.
7 – Previous Preterm Labor
Mothers who have had previous preterm labor are highly more likely to go into preterm labor again. Usually the preterm labor occurs at approximately the same week as prior preterm labors. Additionally, preterm labor may be hereditary. A family predisposition for preterm labor, especially if the mother herself was born prematurely, should be flagged as a risk factor.
8 – Lack of Prenatal Care
Taking care of both mother and baby during pregnancy is vital to the health of both parties. Prenatal care including proper nutrition, prenatal vitamins, a healthy living environment, emotional support and regular OB check-ups can help prevent preterm labor.
9 – Stress
Women who experience intense stress during pregnancy can go into premature labor. Stress has a physiological impact on the body. During pregnancy, stress hormones can trigger early labor and can be highly dangerous for babies.
10 – Physical Strain
Standing for too long, performing highly physical jobs, lifting heavy objects or over-exercising can lead to preterm labor. While some exercise is recommended during pregnancy, too much physical strain can have harmful side-effects.
Know these causes of preterm labor to monitor inherent risk factors and avoid controllable risks.