Carrying your baby to term: Risk factors for giving birth too soon

Expert explains changes you can make that could help you carry your baby to term

Pregnancy carries many concerns for women, but one of the biggest worries is about carrying the baby to term.

While most pre-term births are not preventable, there are certain risk factors that increase the odds of not carrying a baby to full term.

In the U.S., one of about every 10 babies is born pre-term, meaning the baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Babies that are born too early are at a higher risk of serious disability or even death.

Dr. Salena Zanotti, of Cleveland Clinic, said, “There are starting to be some studies that show that women who are either underweight or overweight are at a higher risk for pre-term delivery.”

Zanotti said one risk factor is weight. She said, “So making sure that you have a normal weight, and as we all know, obesity is such a problem in this country, so that's one thing we can really try to encourage women to work on doing."

Zanotti said that women who are carrying multiple babies are usually at a higher risk for pre-term delivery, and are therefore monitored very closely as a precaution.

Women who become pregnant at a very young age, as well as women who become pregnant after the age of 35 are also at a higher risk.

Another risk factor for pre-term delivery exists for women who have had previous procedures performed on their cervix because of pre-cancerous concerns.

Zanotti said, “If you've had a procedure to your cervix because of abnormal pap smears and precancerous changes, you are at a higher risk for pre-term labor and pre-term delivery."

Lifestyle habits can play a role too; which is why it's important to avoid smoking, alcohol or the use of illicit drugs.

Zanotti said that women who have had previous pre-term births are at a higher risk in future pregnancies. However, advances in pre-natal care have made it possible to significantly reduce that risk for these women.

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