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Preterm Birth Prevention Strategies

At SMC, we appreciate November Prematurity Awareness Month, part of the March of Dimes Prematurity Awareness Campaign which began in 2003. Through education, voice, social media, events, community service projects and more, individuals and organizations come together to reduce the number of premature births.

Preterm is defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. There are subcategories of preterm birth based on gestational age:

  • Extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks)
  • Very preterm (28 to 32 weeks)
  • Moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks)

Premature birth is the leading cause of infant mortality worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 1 million children die each year due to complications of preterm birth.

Premature birth is the leading cause for the disproportionate higher rate of African American infant mortality in the United States of America. Racial and ethnic disparities are also present in preterm births. For example, in 2019, the rate of preterm birth among non-Hispanic black women was 14.4% of the national average.

The morbidity rate is devastating for babies born too early. They will face a lifetime of disability, including learning disabilities, visual and hearing problems, and higher rates of cerebral palsy.

Familial Cycle of Preterm Birth

Research has found that people born prematurely can have lifelong health problems, increasing their risk for:

  • Hypertension
  • Heart anomalies associated with heart failure
  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes in pregnant women
  • Impaired respiratory function
  • Suboptimal bone mass that can lead to osteoporosis and fractures

An important first step is to screen all pregnant women/people who were born preterm, because they are likely to have predisposed factors that can cause them to birth their baby prematurely.

Prevention Strategies for Premature Birth

  • Provide early culturally competent prenatal care
  • Screen for risk factors that can contribute to premature birth during throughout the pregnancy.
  • Encourage pregnant women/people to:
    • Use midwives for their prenatal care and births.
    • Eat 70 grams of protein per day.
    • Drink one cup of raspberry tea beginning the second trimester
    • Gain the recommended weight by eating nutritious foods.
    • Drink 8-10 cups of water daily.
  • Match your pregnant clients with professional doulas.
  • Teach pregnant women/people to recognize the signs of premature labor and to contact their health care provider immediately
  • Remind pregnant women/people to avoid standing for long periods of time.
  • Protect pregnant women/people of color from systemic racism in maternity care.

Peri-natal Terms to Know:

  • Adequate Prenatal Care: Care within the first six months of pregnancy or five or more visits
  • Infant Mortality: Death of a baby from birth to its first year birthday (neonatal and postnatal deaths combined)
  • Low Birth Weight: Babies born below 2,400 grams or 5lbs.5oz.
  • Very Low Birth Weight: Babies born 1500 grams or 3lbs.3oz.
  • Neonatal Mortality: Death in the first 28 days of life
  • Normal Birth Weight: Babies born more than 2,500grams or 5lbs.8oz.
  • Perinatal Mortality: Death of a fetus before birth
  • Prenatal Care: Services directed at health promotion, risk assessment, and intervention during pregnancy
  • Unintended Pregnancies: Considered mistimed or unwanted pregnancy
  • Premature Birth: A baby born before 37 weeks
  • Full Term: A baby born between 38-42 weeks of the pregnancy
  • Lactation: To produce milk
  • Breastfeeding: To feed baby human milk from breast/s

Learn more about how you can help prevent premature birth.

Prematurity Resources:

World Health Organization: Preterm birth
ScienceDaily: Adults born preterm at risk of early chronic disease
CDC Newsroom: National Prematurity Awareness Month: Celebrating Successes and Taking Action
Maternal Contributions to Preterm Delivery

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Shafia M. Monroe, DEM. CDT, MPH
Office Number: 503-927-8357 | Email: Shafia@shafiamonroe.com
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