Laredo, TX – Every year, about 450,000 babies are born too soon in the United States, that means that 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born too soon each year. A premature birth is when a baby is born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks. Important growth and development occur throughout pregnancy especially in the final months and weeks. Children born too early (preemies) weigh much less and may have health problems because their organs did not fully develop.
The earlier a baby is born, the more severe his or her health problems are likely to be. Some risk factors for premature birth are age of mother, carrying more than one baby (twins, triplets, or more), chronic health problems in the mother such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and clotting disorders, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, or illicit drug use during pregnancy among others. In Laredo we have seen a rise in prematurity as well and in 2013; 12 premature newborns died at birth or shortly after.
There are things that women can do to improve their health, lower the risk of having a premature baby, and help their baby be healthy. These include:
· Quit smoking.
· Avoid alcohol or drugs.
· See your health care provider for a medical checkup before pregnancy. Get prenatal care as soon as you think you may be pregnant, and throughout your pregnancy.
· Control diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
· A healthy diet and prenatal vitamins. It is important to take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily before and during early pregnancy.
· Concerns about pregnancy and any warning signs or symptoms of preterm labor that will need medical attention.
· Breastfeeding. Breast milk is the best food for babies, whether they are born early or at term.
“Early appropriate prenatal and postnatal care is critically important for mothers’ and babies’ health and to reduce the risk of premature birth” said Dr. Hector F. Gonzalez, Director of Health. Therefore the City of Laredo Health Department (CLHD) encourages all women in reproductive age to seek preventive health care early with their doctor and to assist women and children the CLHD offers Maternity and Family Planning Clinical Services to promote early access to Women’s Health care and promote healthier outcomes for both mother and newborn.
For more information on prematurity prevention, women and children’s health, contact your doctor or call the CLHD Maternity and Family Planning Services at (956) 795-4907 and (956)795-4903.