You’re pregnant and you are excited to meet your new baby. You might feel your pregnancy is lasting forever.
For a healthy baby, every week counts—even at the very end of pregnancy.
A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks. When your baby is born after the 37th week of pregnancy, they have a chance to develop as fully as possible before birth.
However, if you go into labor and give birth before your 37th week of pregnancy, your baby will be considered “premature” or “preterm.”
Preterm babies can have health problems that affect them for years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that your baby’s brain, lungs, and liver will keep growing and developing during your final weeks of being pregnant.
Babies who are born too early might:
- have a hard time breathing
- not be able to eat normally
- have cerebral palsy, which can affect their ability to move, stand, or walk
- develop more slowly throughout childhood
- have problems seeing or hearing
Preterm babies sometimes have to stay in the hospital or ICU for several weeks after birth. When you finally bring your “preemie” baby home, you might feel exhausted taking care of their medical needs.
How to prevent preterm labor or birth.
You can take steps today to lower your risk for going in to labor early.
- If you ever had a pregnancy end early, be sure to tell your doctor.
- Go to all of your doctor appointments.
- If you take prescription or over-the-counter medicines, be sure to tell your doctor.
- Take a prenatal vitamin every day.
- Stay away from cigarette smoke, also known as “secondhand smoke.”
- If you smoke, stop. If you can’t stop, cut back on the number of cigarettes you smoke.
- Do not drink alcohol.
- Do not use any illegal drugs.
- Avoid stress whenever you can. Ask loved ones for help.
- If you feel burning or pain when you go to the bathroom, call your doctor right away.
- Know the warning signs of pre-term labor.
What are the warning signs of preterm labor?
Preterm labor can begin suddenly. Call your doctor right away if you notice any of the following:
- feeling that your belly is contracting, or opening and closing like a fist, every 10 minutes or so
- a lot of fluid or blood leaking from your vagina
- feeling that your baby is pushing down
- pain in your lower back
- cramps that feel like a menstrual period
- belly cramps with or without diarrhea
Remember, when babies are born too early, they can have health problems that affect them for the rest of their lives.
If you have any questions about what you can do to stay pregnant for 37 weeks or more, be sure to ask your doctor.
Call the free 24-hour Nurse Line.
Have an urgent question about your pregnancy or your baby’s health, eating, behavior, or other concern?
Call the 24-hour Nurse Line. There is no cost to you for this Parkland Community Health Plan service.
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