NEWARK— Worldwide more than 1 million babies born prematurely die each year before they are a month old. Infants who survive premature birth face lifelong health risks, including the possible development of cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss, learning disabilities and other chronic conditions, according to the March of Dimes.
The rate of preterm births has increased 36 percent in the past 25 years, according to a recent global report by the March of Dimes. New Jersey’s preterm birth rate is 12.7 percent, an increase of 19 percent between 1995 and 2006.
According to the study, much of the hike in preterm births in the US is linked to more pregnancies after the age of 35 and the use of fertility treatments that can lead to multiple births. “Wherever trend data are available, rates of preterm birth are increasing,” the report said.
“By eating right, eliminating smoking and drinking, and seeing a physician regularly, mothers-to-be can reduce their chances of giving birth to a premature baby,” says Martin L. Gimovsky, M.D., board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology and maternal fetal medicine, and the Residency Program Director for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
Preventing Preterm Delivery
Preterm labor and delivery can happen to any pregnant woman, but it happens more often to some women than to others. Three groups of women are at greatest risk:
- Women who have had a previous preterm birth
- Women who are pregnant with twins, triplets or more
- Women with certain uterine or cervical abnormalities
The Department of OBGYN at NBIMC handles almost 4000 births annually, many in women at extremely high risk of pregnancy loss. The Division of Neonatal Medicine at CHNJ at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center cares for more than 4,000 newborns annually, close to 1,000 of them critically-ill in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Babies receiving care in the NICU may have cardiac or respiratory problems or other complicated diagnoses.
The Department of Maternal Fetal Medicine at NBIMC and the March of Dimes offer suggestions for reducing the chance of a premature birth:
- Get prenatal care as soon as you think you are pregnant and go to every appointment. If possible, see your health care provider before you get pregnant.
- Stop smoking. It’s best to stop before you get pregnant. Avoid secondhand smoke.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
- Talk to your health care provider about prescription medications you are taking.
- Try to reduce stress. Ask friends and family for help. Rest whenever possible.
- If you are in an abusive relationship, talk to someone. Abuse often gets worse during pregnancy.
- Avoid long working hours with long periods of standing.
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