All parents wish for a healthy baby, but when the little one arrives too early, the chance of problems goes up.
That's why health officials are concerned about increases in the number of premature births. In Kansas, from 1993 to 2003, the number of premature births went up 15 percent. Doctors say the time to take action to change those numbers is before you become pregnant.
Renee Masters took that advice to heart. Before she even knew her newborn Ashley was on the way, Renee was getting ready. She saw her doctor regularly, took vitamins and ate healthy. Despite her efforts, Renee developed complications, and Ashley entered the world at 29-weeks - more than ten weeks early.
Because she'd been seeing her doctor before she got pregnant, Renee knew she had physical risks for a pre-term birth she couldn't do anything about. Stormont-Vail Maternal Fetal Medicine Dr. John Evans says that attention is the first step in preventing a premature delivery.
In addition to medical exams, Evans says prepare for pregnancy by taking care of yourself. That means no smoking or alcohol, both of which can harm fetal development; get to a healthy weight - being overweight or underweight increases the risk of complications; and adopt a healthy diet, including folic acid supplements, which promote healthy brain and spinal cord development.
Evans says healthy habits need to start before pregnancy because your body needs to develop some stores. He says pregnancy usually takes out more than the amount of nutrition than you can put in during pregnancy. He says that's especially true with folic acid because it needs to be available at the time of conception.
Knowing the warning signs of early labor, like contractions or unusual spotting, is also important. Evans says, with immediate intervention, doctors can often take steps to hold off on the delivery.
Renee knew the signs and was able to buy an extra two weeks. The extra time was vital so Renee could get shots to more fully develop Ashley's lungs. Renee's advice to other future moms is to get educated, because you need to know what to expect and what to look for, so you can look forward to a healthy baby.
The March of Dimes works to prevent premature births and find treatments for preemies to grow up to lead healthy lives. Visit them for a variety of useful information, www.marchofdimes.com.