In the United States, about 1 in 10 babies is delivered preterm, before the 37th week of pregnancy has been completed. Babies born prematurely can be affected by adverse health complications such as breathing and feeding challenges, cerebral palsy, delays in development, problems with vision and hearing, and death. The conditions associated with preterm birth can also lead to financial challenges for families from resulting healthcare costs, as well as emotional struggles throughout the course of caring for these babies. However, there are several ways in which healthcare providers can work with women and mothers to reduce the risk of preterm birth both before and throughout pregnancy.
Supporting Maternal Health
One of the ways in which the preterm birth rate can be reduced is by providing healthcare services and education to women prior to them becoming pregnant. Through screening for chronic diseases, promoting a healthy lifestyle, and intervening to address potentially harmful risk factors, healthcare providers can enable women to reach optimal health for their pregnancies. In addition to providing women with the support necessary to manage chronic health conditions, women should be granted resources to help them quit tobacco use and substance abuse prior to pregnancy. One effective strategy is to ensure women have access to quitting assistance; state Medicaid programs will cover the costs of drug therapy and tobacco cessation counseling.
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Identifying At-Risk Women
Certain women are at heightened risk for preterm deliveries. Another strategy to reduce the preterm birth rate is to identify these women and provide them with the treatments they need to safely carry a baby to full term. Women who have experienced prior preterm deliveries can be up to twice as likely as other women to deliver prematurely again. These at-risk women can benefit from medications like 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone, known as 17P, which can decrease the preterm birth risk by about 30%. Other medications, like antenatal corticosteroids (ANCS) can reduce the likelihood of common preterm complications in at-risk women’s babies, such as respiratory distress syndrome, intraventricular hemorrhage, necrotizing enterocolitis, and death.
Learn how Personal Concierge is helping moms carry a baby to full term »