Food, Health and Wellness

Risk Factors for Premature Birth

Food, Health and Wellness Emily Woerfel

Giving birth under normal circumstances can be a daunting experience, but if you’re living abroad, “daunting” can feel like an understatement. As a mom to be, you just want the best for your new bundle of joy, and to be as prepared as possible. You might have a list a mile long of all the things you want to get done before baby arrives and the last thing that any parent expects is for their little one to make a surprise entrance. And while there is no sure-fire way to avoid premature birth, there are some risk factors you may want to know ahead of time, as there are many that you can still control.

Risk Factors for Premature Birth

What is premature birth?

A birth is considered premature if it takes place any time before 37 weeks of gestation. Generally speaking, the earlier a baby is born, the greater risk he or she has for short- or long-term health problems. Of course, not all premature babies have any long-term health issues, but premature birth is one of the most important risk factors in a myriad of health problems that all parents want to avoid. This is why simply knowing the risk factors for premature birth could help you steer clear from it altogether.

1. Age

While women continue to have babies later and later in life–(in Spain the age of first time moms continues to increase and is currently 31.5)–nevertheless, age is still a very important factor, especially when it comes to premature birth. Generally speaking, mothers under 18 and older than 35 are more at risk for a premature birth than those in the middle.

2. Smoking

One of the biggest risk factors for premature birth is smoking. If you are a habitual smoker, this probably isn’t the best news–nor is its likely new news, but the upside is that it is a risk factor you can easily control. Smoking is also linked to many dangerous health issues such as low birth weight in infants, abnormal bleeding during pregnancy and delivery, lung and brain damage in your baby, and higher risk of SIDS when the baby is born. In conclusion, if you can quit, now is a good time to do so, and if not, cut back as much as possible.

3. Previous premature birth

Women who have had premature births before are at high risk for going into premature labor and delivery. Be sure to work closely with your doctor if this is your case and explain the circumstances of your previous premature birth. If your Spanish isn’t up to medical level, rely on support from your partner or a close friend with advanced language skills to make sure that communication between you and your doctor is very clear.

4. Certain medical conditions

There are certain medical conditions that leave women predisposed to a birth before 37 weeks. Some of these include:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension, including preeclampsia that develops during pregnancy
  • Blood clotting problems
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Any untreated infections
5. Being pregnant with multiples

Women who are pregnant with twins, triplets, or other multiple fetuses have a much higher likelihood of going into early labor. Your doctor will undoubtedly prepare you for this, but it is good to know ahead of time.

6. Alcohol use

One of the biggest reasons that pregnant women are strongly advised against alcohol, in addition to potential birth defects and developmental delays, is due to the risk of premature birth. While researchers have debated about the effects of alcohol on a fetus and whether or not moderate levels of alcohol consumption at early stages of pregnancy truly have an effect on a healthy pregnancy, the conclusion is fairly clear that there is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy, so it’s best to stick to a “Cerveza sin alcohol”, or “una sin” as they say.

7. Late or lacking prenatal care

In any pregnancy it is vital to go to your doctor right away and begin prenatal care with your OB-GYN and/or midwife. Women who start prenatal care very late in their pregnancy have a greater risk of premature birth, primarily because they lack the information and education on the risk factors to avoid it. Your doctors are going to be your best source of accurate information and preparation for how to best handle your pregnancy physically as well as emotionally, and avoid any unnecessary mishaps. Check here all the options you have by getting our best insurance for family planning.

Risk Factors for Premature Birth

8. Poor nutrition

Pregnancy requires a lot from a woman’s body and it is important to get the right fuel for mom and baby during those ten months. Of vital importance is, of course, taking your prenatal vitamins and folic acid, as well as a well-balanced diet. Some women may find that they have a slight anemia during pregnancy and will be prescribed iron supplements as well. This list of energy foods during pregnancy will keep you feeling your best during those (sometimes long) ten months!

One the flip side, there are always foods that we need to avoid when pregnant as well, and in Spain the list seems to get even longer because of all of the cured meats and cheeses that are so typical here–yes, that means jamón! Be sure to check this dietary restrictions list for pregnancy in Spain, to make sure you’re not accidentally exposing you and baby to unnecessary risk.

9. Uterine or cervical problems

Certain uterine or cervical problems such as infections, cervical insufficiency, placenta abruption or placenta previa can all be contributing factors to premature birth. As long as you are going to regular checkups with your doctor and/or midwife, they should be well aware of these conditions ahead of time and will prepare you and your baby as necessary.

Can premature birth be avoided?

Despite knowing all of the risk factors for premature birth and being as prepared as possible, sometimes the unexpected is absolutely unavoidable. We all know what they say about the best laid plans, after all. This is why many people consider taking out maternity insurance in order to cover all their bases and avoid waiting times when they matter most. But at the end of the day, when it comes to pregnancy and birth, the most important thing is that you take care of yourself and your new baby to the best of your ability by getting regular check ups and maintaining an open line of honest communication with your doctor, eating healthy and nutritious foods, and avoiding certain risk factors as much as possible.

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Emily Woerfel

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