What You Need to Know About Pregnancy After a Premature Birth

All women, and most men, have heard the words preterm labor and premature birth, but information about these topics isn’t universally understood. As a mother, these terms are scary and invoke anxiety. Premature births cause a lot of challenges, both physical and emotional. That’s why it’s important to understand premature birth and preterm labor means along with your risk factors, signs and symptoms, and how to reduce the risk of having a premature birth.

This is especially true for mothers who’ve already delivered a preterm baby. You’ve gone through this experience once, so it’s understandable that having another baby causes you to worry.

Luckily, according to the Journal of American Medical Association, only a small percentage of women who give birth prematurely will deliver their second babies prematurely. In addition, there are actions you can take that will lower your chances of having another premature baby. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about pregnancy after a premature birth.

What is a Premature Birth?

A premature birth is defined as any birth that occurs more than three weeks before your baby’s estimated due date, or roughly around the start of the 37th week of pregnancy.

There are different types of premature births, each one depending on when your baby decides to make their grand entrance. They include the following:

  • Late Preterm – between 34 and 36 weeks
  • Moderately Preterm – between 32 and 34 weeks
  • Very Preterm – less than 32 weeks
  • Extremely Preterm – at or before 25 weeks

While most premature babies (preemies) are born in the late preterm stage, other, more extreme, instances do still occur.

What are the Signs of Preterm Labor?

If you’ve experienced a premature birth than you understand the signs of preterm labor. However, to make sure that all mothers are educated, we wanted to list out a few of the most common signs and symptoms of preterm labor. They include:

  • Vaginal discharge that appears watery, mucus, or bloody
  • Heavier vaginal discharge than usual
  • Pressure in your pelvis or lower stomach
  • Consistent lower backaches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Regular or frequent contractions (these may or may not be painful)
  • Your water breaks

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, call your doctor immediately. They will be able to do an exam to see if your cervix is beginning to open for labor, leading way to a premature birth.

It’s always best to get to your doctor as soon as possible, even if it’s a false alarm. They will take the necessary measures to try and help stop premature delivery.

Risks Factors of Premature Birth

Contrary to what you might think, having one premature birth isn’t a guaranteed indication that you will have another one. It’s a risk factor that does come into play, but it’s not set in stone. In fact, if you’ve already delivered one premature baby, your risk for having another is only about 15%.

If you’ve had more than one premature baby, your risks increase to 40% and higher and if you’ve had a full term pregnancy after a premature birth, your risks decrease. Talk to your doctor about your history and any concerns to better understand your individual risks.

Another risk factor of having a preemie is if you’re pregnant with twins, triplets, or more. The higher number of multiples there are, the more at risk you’ll be.

If you’ve experienced gynecological problems either with your uterus or cervix, talk to your doctor before trying to get pregnant. Depending on the problem, different complications could put you at risk for a premature delivery.

Other risk factors include:

  • Being under or overweight
  • Family history of premature births
  • Getting pregnant too soon after a birth
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Preeclampsia
  • Infections
  • Thrombophilia
  • Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy
  • Lack of Prenatal Care
  • Birth Defects
  • Smoking, Drinking, or Drug Usage
  • Excessive Stress
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Domestic Violence
  • Multiple miscarriages or abortions

How to Reduce the Risk of Another Premature Birth

Whether you’ve already had one premature birth or not, you want to make sure and give your baby the best environment possible to develop full term. Luckily, there are some things you can do. Remember to talk to your doctor with any questions or concerns you have and always seek professional advice to confirm your situation.

Give it Some Time

Spacing out your pregnancies is a good way to ensure that your body has enough time to recovery. Wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again to give your baby the best chance. Use birth control as a preventative measure to avoid conception during this time.

Never Skip Checkups

Prenatal care is extremely important. Never, ever, skip your checkups. This includes your preconception checkup. Prior to getting pregnant, visit a doctor and get a checkup to make sure you’re healthy enough to start trying. When you conceive during optimal health, your chances of a full term pregnancy increase. If you think you’re pregnant, schedule a checkup as soon as possible.

Consider Progesterone Shots

Progesterone is a hormone that’s important for pregnancy. It helps your uterus grow and keeps it from going into irregular contractions. Getting progesterone shots is considered safe for pregnant women, but always talk to your doctor to make sure. Progesterone shots will increase the likelihood that you carry to full term.

Know Your Risks

As with everything, the more you know about your risks, the better you’ll be able to address them. If you’ve had preeclampsia or are at risk for it, talk to your doctor at out taking a low-dose aspirin. Preeclampsia is dangerous if not treated, so always go to your checkups regularly.

Get Healthy

Before trying to get pregnant, you should focus on getting as healthy as possible. Get yourself to a healthy weight, eat nutritious, whole foods, aim for eight hours of sleep every night, and find healthy ways to manage your stress. Start taking 400mcg of folic acid every day along with any other preconception vitamins that your doctor recommends.

Address Health Conditions

If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, autoimmune diseases, thyroid problems, heart disease, or kidney disease, then now is the time to get them under control. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to best manage your conditions and how to ensure that they won’t affect your pregnancy.

Quit Smoking!

If you smoke, stop. Smoking increases the risk for premature delivery along with a number of other negative side effects. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor today. You should also avoid drinking excessively and do not use street drugs or abuse prescriptions.

Talk to Your Doctor

We can’t stress this enough. You need to talk to your doctor. Only you and your doctor will be able to work together to address all of your risks and how to reduce them. Make sure you get vaccinated to protect you and any future pregnancies from the necessary risks and always go the extra mile to avoid infection.

If you’re worried about your risks, talk to your doctor about getting a cerclage. A cerclage is a stitch in the cervix that helps prevent premature birth in women who have already experienced preterm delivery.

Talk to a Specialist

There are specialists for high-risk pregnancies and preterm birth called maternal fetal medicine (MFM) physicians. Consider getting a consultation and discussing your concerns with a specialist. They’ll be able to give you a personal risk assessment to better understand your pregnancies.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, one of the best ways to reduce your risks for a premature birth is to stay healthy, stay in communication with your doctor, and understand your risks and how to address them. Through careful monitoring and a strong understanding of your pregnancy, you’ll be able to reduce the risks and plan for whatever happens. If you have any questions about pregnancy after a premature birth, or want to know more about what happens after delivery, don’t hesitate to get in contact with your doctor or OBGYN. As always, when you’re planning for your pregnancy, don’t forget that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, expectant mothers are eligible to receive an electric breast pump covered by their insurance provider! Browse all of the available selections and find other great pregnancy tips, info, and product reviews.

This is a difficult topic and we encourage our readers to come together and build a supportive and open community. So, if you have any stories about your experience with having a premature birth and your journey with your preemie, please visit our Facebook page and leave a comment!

The post Everything You Need to Know About Pregnancy After a Premature Birth appeared first on Breast Pump Blog | Breastfeeding Blog.