How to Prevent Premature Labor and Birth: Part 3

Though sobering statistics show us that the number of preemies is rising, there's a lot you can do to prevent premature labor and premature birth.

Some cases may be truly unexplained and some unpreventable (an accident or illness, for instance), but we do know many causes of premature birth.  We talked about the impact of stress and lack of support in Part 1, and the incredible impact of nutrition on the health of baby, mother, and placenta in Part 2.  All of these aspects are evidence to how intertwined mama and baby are – and in the final part of this series we'll see that again.

Prevent Premature Labor and Birth

Good Health for Mama = Good Health for Baby

Usually health is defined as the absence of sickness.  “If I do not have the flu right now, I am healthy,” or “I don't have a cold, so I'm healthy.”  And “not healthy” generally equals being sick.

But it's not so simplistic, especially in today's world of chronic disease, autoimmune conditions, and overall poor levels of well-being.  “Quality of life” is a term sometimes used when people seek treatment for a condition that's not an overt illness, but it is impacting how they feel and how well they're doing in their life.

We want our babies to enjoy high levels of health and a good quality of life – and we also want that for ourselves as mothers!

There are often underlying issues that don't make you “sick” – but they do impact your well-being and your quality of life.  There's evidence that this can have big impacts on fertility and on pregnancy and baby.

System-Wide Imbalance

Medical science is at the dawn of understanding how important system-wide health is, and how much impact environmental and internal factors can have on that health.  One example that's very relevant to preventing premature labor is the microbiota.

Not sure what that is?  It's because it's a new concept.  Yogurt with “live, active cultures” has been pretty trendy for a little over a decade now, and that was just a nod in the right right direction.  The reason why those little “live” guys are so important is because we need “good bacteria,” or probiotic bacteria, to help our body do what it needs to do internally.  It's a symbiotic relationship.

But when your microbiota is off-balance it has big impacts, usually digestive.  And for women, it often impacts reproductive health and can create vaginal imbalance.  You may be turning a few shades of red right now, but it's important to talk about this – your babies need you to know it.

BV (and Other Imbalances) are Linked to Preterm Labor and PPROM

BV is short for bacterial vaginosis, a very unwanted imbalance of the delicate vaginal bio-system.  It causes itching, burning, and other issues – and for many women it's recurrent.  It always comes back!  Other imbalances in this area cause yeast infections, GBS, etc.

Studies going back decades have linked recurrent vaginal infections to preterm labor and especially PPROM – preterm prelabor rupture of membranes.  In other words, your water breaks way before your baby is ready1.

The cited study actually links poor nutrition and overall infection rates (remember we covered nutrition in Part 2), but it and many others have specifically noted the link between vaginal health and premature birth2.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) are also linked with premature birth and it's important to be screened (and treated) if you're at risk.  Studies show that routine screening for BV and other issues don't tend to improve outcomes, however, because false positives are high3.

So what should you do if you're worried about BV or vaginal health?

A Holistic Treatment

If you've experienced BV or yeast infections, you probably know it!  There's no need for screening.  Other issues, like GBS (group B strep) usually go undetected.

If you know you have an imbalance (or have tested positive for GBS in the past), take a look at my article on preventing or stopping GBSit goes over specific ways to handle BV issues, and of course what to do about GBS.

That article also outlines overall, holistic treatment of microbiota imbalances.  That's where your focus should be during every day life as a pregnant woman.

Make eating probiotic foods (like yogurt, kefirt, traditionally lacto-fermented sauerkraut, etc.) part of your daily routine.  You can also add in a probiotic supplement – I recommend all pregnant woman do.  But eat the food too, because those bacteria have a better chance of colonizing (food is a powerful medicine).

You can build up the amounts slowly to give your body time to adjust as the “good guys” move in and help you resolve imbalances that impact your health.

(NOTE: Trying to balance your pregnancy, life, and getting ready for baby? Use my checklist pack stay healthy (naturally), organized, and confident throughout your pregnancy! Get them here.)

Ultimate Pregnancy Checklist Pack

Check Your Overall Health

Having lots of probiotic bacteria in your digestive system and in the birth canal will go a long way towards helping you carry your baby to term (and feel great while you're at it).  And stress control, a strong support system, and excellent nutrition will help you feel good and ward off (or quickly shake off) minor illness and infections.  All of that protects your baby4.

Remember, too, to look at other factors in your health.  For instance, many women have issues with thyroid or adrenals.  Thing like blood pressure, pre-existing diabetes, and carrying multiples5 call for a proactive approach.  Many midwives and doctors are knowledgeable about helping women with these issues and many others – so it's worth bringing up at your prenatal appointments, or even scheduling a preconception appointment.

Research health issues, even if you're not really “sick” – because doing so can have an impact on your overall health on and your baby's health.  Many women have been there before you and they want to share their wisdom and lessons learned!

Responsibility, Not Blame

I wrote this series with the intention of giving information about some of the known causes of the rise in premature birth rates.  Knowledge is power.

It's important for me to say that I didn't write any of this to make you feel guilty, or to assign blame.  I frequently get backlash when I write because I get right to the point about what mothers can do for their pregnancy health, baby's health, breastfeeding relationship, etc.  I don't intend for any of this to be about blaming you or about making you feel guilty.

But I do want to put information into your hands – it's not fair to hide all of this information and say “we shouldn't blame mothers” or “we shouldn't make them feel guilty.”

Sometimes when we get information, we realize we could have made different choices in the past.  That's very true and it really hurts when it comes to parenting (I have six kids – I have made mistakes that keep me up at night).  But we can't sit and blame ourselves or go over and over that “mistake.”  Look at what you could have done differently, and this time do differently.  That's teaching your children a good lesson – and improving your family's health for the future.

I don't want you to feel guilty when you think about what you can do to prevent preterm labor or birth – I want you to be empowered.  Do all that you can.  And yes, sometimes things happen… sometimes something really does come up and means a baby comes early, a birth doesn't go as planned…

But you're most empowered to handle that situation when you know you've done everything you can to prevent it.  You feel confident in yourself, and all the steps that you took up to that point really do mean that you and your baby are healthier, even if your start is challenging.  You've also learned to advocate for yourself and your needs, to build true support systems, and all of that helps you.

Hope for Babies of the Future

So yes, sometimes, no matter what, things happen.  But I really believe that if we, as mothers, take steps to understand our bodies, our health, and our pregnancies, those things will happen only in true emergency (or accidental) situations.  Most mamas and babies will do well.

It's important to be clear and candid about how we can take our pregnancies and births into our own hands – doing our prenatal care on the 220+ odd days we don't consult with our doctor or midwife 😉  Because that's what benefits our babies – strong mamas who feel empowered to care for themselves and our families.

Part of this is a cultural thing – our culture needs to be supportive of mothers, supportive of system-wide health, and it needs to look beyond drugs for answers.  We need to really examine cultural issues and fix them as a society (for instance, babies of African-American ethnicity are much more likely to be preemies, even with great prenatal care).

But a lot of it is what you, gentle mother, can stand up for and do for yourself.  And when enough mama bears stand up for a cause, people notice.  The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.  Be willing to learn all you can and do all you can – that's what gives our babies… and our grandbabies… hope.

The Premature Birth Prevention Series

(NOTE: Trying to balance your pregnancy, life, and getting ready for baby? Use my checklist pack stay healthy (naturally), organized, and confident throughout your pregnancy! Get them here.)

Ultimate Pregnancy Checklist Pack

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References:

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4976616

2. http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/abstract/1988/01000/relationships_of_vaginal_lactobacillus_species,.19.aspx, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-0528.1991.tb10335.x/abstract, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=362540

3. http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/abstract/1992/08000/bacterial_vaginosis_in_early_pregnancy_and.3.aspx

4. Krebs, G. S. (2000) The Brewer Pregnancy Hotline. Kalico Communications.

5. Pregnant with two or more? Please read Dr. Barbara Luke's [raw]When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads[/raw] and follow her dietary advice. Your babies will thank you.

Photo Credit

Prevent Premature Labor and Birth

About the author 

Kristen

Kristen is a wife and a mama to 8 - all born naturally! She has spent years helping mamas have healthy babies, give birth naturally, and enjoy the adventure of motherhood. Find her on her website NaturalBirthandBabyCare.com and helping families through her online childbirth class MamaBabyBirthing.com

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