In the United States, the overall rate of preterm births is 11.4 percent, which is twice the rate of several other developed countries. Babies born early are at risk for many health concerns, including difficulty breathing, heart issues, gastrointestinal and development problems. New research suggests that approximately 25 percent of these premature births might be carried to full-term if expecting mothers paid attention to a few risk factors that they can affect. These factors include spacing pregnancies well, beginning at a healthy weight and gaining the recommended amount during pregnancy. Pregnancies should be at least a year apart, and healthy weight women should gain the recommended weight. The recommended weight gain increases for underweight women and decreases for women who are overweight at the start of their pregnancy.
- 1The highest rate of preterm births — at 25 percent, more than triple that of the ideal group — occurred among women who were underweight when they got pregnant, had shorter gaps between pregnancies and inadequate weight gain during pregnancy, the researchers reported.
- 2“You have some control over your risk of a preterm birth,” DeFranco said, urging women to pay attention to the factors they can adjust. Other risks are not changeable. For instance, black women are more likely to have preterm births, as are women who have had a previous one and those who conceive through in vitro fertilization, the researchers said.
- 3“These are all risk factors for a really serious health outcome — preterm birth,” said study co-author Dr. Emily DeFranco. She is a researcher at the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.