Are you at risk for preterm birth and wondering how to prevent it?
Have you given birth to a preemie in the past and wondering what you can do in future pregnancies?
Most pregnant mamas eagerly await the birth of their babies.
However women at risk for preterm birth want to do anything they can to avoid meeting the new baby too soon.
Preterm Birth – Ways To Prevent Preterm Birth
We’re not absolutely certain why some babies are born early.
As a result it is difficult to figure out which interventions work best to reduce preterm labour.
We know there are certain risk factors, signs and causes.
However a large proportion of preterm births happen without risk factors and known causes.
Researchers at Cochrane reviewed research containing evidence about whether or not an intervention was able to reduce preterm birth or a perinatal death (death of a baby).
Of the 83 reviews, 70 contained information about preterm birth and the rest were related to perinatal death.
The Cochrane overview then categorised the evidence found as:
- Clear benefit
- Clear risk
- No effect
- Possible benefit
- Possible harm
- Unknown effect.
What Reduced The Risk Of Preterm Birth?
The Cochrane review found several interventions that had clear benefit in reducing the risk of preterm birth.
Specifically, they found the following had clear benefits in reducing preterm birth for specific women:
- The midwifery-led continuity models of care as opposed to other models of care
- Screening pregnant women for lower genital tract infections (UTIs, STIs, etc.) and treating them, as needed. Untreated infection is a known risk factor for preterm birth; however, some minor infections can go unnoticed by a pregnant woman.
- Zinc supplementation, for women without systematic illness
- A cervical stitch (cerclage), for women at high risk of preterm birth, and pregnant with only one baby
In addition, the following showed possible benefit in reducing preterm birth in some groups of women:
- Group antenatal (prenatal) care, for all pregnant women
- Antibiotic treatment, for women with bacteria present but no symptoms of obvious infection (asymptomatic bacteriuria)
- Pharmaceutical interventions for smoking cessation
- Vitamin D supplements, for women without health problems
It is equally important to note, the review didn’t find any interventions with clear, known risk.
However, they did find a few things that have potential risks. These include:
- Intramuscular progesterone injections, for women at high risk of preterm birth while pregnant with multiples
- Taking vitamin D supplements, calcium or other minerals, where there were no health problems or deficiencies
How Does Midwifery Care Reduce Preterm Birth?
If you’re familiar with BellyBelly content, you know we mention midwifery care quite often.
Of course you also know we value evidence-based information.
Above all, we write about and encourage midwifery care because we value evidence-based information.
As you read above, this Cochrane publication showed a clear benefit of using midwifery care.
As well as this Cochrane review, a World Health Organization report found midwives provide care that is equal to and, in some cases, better than care provided by physicians.
Be sure to read Midwives And Nurses Can Provide Equal Or Better Care Than Physicians – WHO Report to learn more.
If you notice the wording above, the Cochrane review talks about midwife style continuity of care.
It isn’t that physicians aren’t able to, or don’t, provide exceptional care; it’s simply that most midwifery models of care offer more continuity of care.
A known midwife becomes familiar with your unique pregnancy. Midwifery models of care notice warning signs of possible complications like preterm birth early on.
In addition, lifestyle, nutrition, prenatal care and other things can reduce the risk of preterm birth.
The midwifery model of care also educates women about nutrition and wellness during pregnancy.
Why Is Prevention of Preterm Birth Important?
In recent decades, medical technology has come a long way regarding premature baby care.
Due to improved care, around 40-70% of babies born at 24 weeks will survive. By 32 weeks, 98% of premature infants survive.
Although technology can save many premature infants, being born early increases their risk of physical and developmental disabilities.
I gave birth to a 31-week baby a couple of years ago. She had an uneventful NICU stay, came home exclusively breastfeeding and was in overall good health.
Since her birth, however, she has had plenty of physical and occupational therapy. This is to address the physical challenges she has as a result of being born prematurely.
She has an excellent prognosis and is doing amazingly well. However, if she’d been able to stay in utero at least 6 extra weeks, she wouldn’t need therapy to meet physical milestones.
To learn more about premature birth outcomes be sure to read:
Are you at risk for preterm labour? Be sure to read Premature Labour – Signs, Symptoms and Management to learn more.