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How to Help Prevent Giving Birth Prematurely

Increase the odds that you will carry your baby to term with these measures, which can help prevent you from giving birth prematurely.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Unless your doctor has placed you on dietary restrictions, enjoy chocolate. One study found eating chocolate 1 to 3 times a week during pregnancy was associated with reduced rates of pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure -- 2 conditions linked with giving birth prematurely.
  • Step 2: Don't feel guilty if you do everything right and still give birth prematurely. Preterm labor and birth can happen in a seemingly healthy pregnancy, through no fault of the mother.
  • FACT: 1 in 8 American women give birth prematurely.
  • TIP: If you experience any complications related to your cervix or placenta during your pregnancy, or if you have a history preterm labor, ask your doctor if sex is OK.
  • Step 3: Recognize the symptoms of preterm labor: contractions that occur more than 6 times per hour; a low, dull backache; pelvic pressure or pain; diarrhea; vaginal bleeding; and a watery vaginal discharge. Prompt medical attention can help prevent you from giving birth prematurely.
  • Step 4: Have regular prenatal check-ups and follow your obstetrician's instructions regarding diet, exercise, and prenatal vitamins. A doctor's care is especially important if you have a chronic condition like diabetes or hypertension, which increases the chances of preterm birth.
  • Step 5: If you smoke, quit; smoking can cause a woman to give birth prematurely. Nonsmokers should also avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Step 6: Brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss daily, and see your dentist twice a year for a check-up and cleaning. Gum disease may be linked to preterm labor and birth.
  • Step 7: Be at a healthy weight before you get pregnant. Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy puts you at greater risk for giving birth prematurely.

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