How you can prevent a premature delivery of your baby in Kingston, New York

In the United States, about 12.8% of babies, or more than half a million a year, are born prematurely, according to the March of Dimes.  The rate of premature birth has increased by 36% since the early 1980's.  Premature babies are considered at risk for newborn complications, such as breathing problems and even death.

A baby is considered premature prior to 36 weeks gestation (one month early) but most severe prematurity issues occur to babies born before approximately 32 weeks gestation.  Although roughly half of the cases of premature infants have no known cause, preeclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension) represents 30% of the known causes of prematurely born infants, or approximately 70,000 premature births.

Different pregnancy related problems increase the risk of preterm labor.  Preeclampsia--the development of high blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of gestation, poor nutrition during pregnancy, and a weakened cervix (also called "cervical incompetence") are among the conditions that can increase the risk of a premature delivery.  Multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets) makes up about 15% of premature births.  Other factors that increase the risk of premature delivery include the use of cocaine, tobacco or amphetamines and age (younger than 16 or older than 35).

A premature infant's organs are not fully developed.  Newborns are usually unable ot coordinate sucking and swallowing before 34 weeks gestation.  Premature newborns often need special care in a nursery until their organs have developed enough to sustain life without medical support.

Prematurity can have long-term effects.  Many premature infants have medical, developmental or behavioral problems that continue into childhood or are permanent.

The longer the pregnancy, the greater the chance of survival.  Of babies born at 28 weeks, at least 90% survive.

The most important step that you can take to prevent prematurity is to receive prenatal care as early as possible in the pregnancy, and to continue such care until the baby is born.  Early and good prenatal care reduces the chance of premature birth.  Premature labor can sometimes be treated or delayed by medication that blocks uterine contractions.