Local News

Risk Of Premature Births Can Be Reduced By Making Lifestyle Changes

Posted November 15, 2005 9:36 a.m. EST

— Babies that survive often have chronic medical problems, but researchers say many preterm births can be avoided if women make a few lifestyle changes.

At only 27 weeks into pregnancy, Shebra Hughes gave birth to twin baby girls. Kennedy weighed in at 1 pound 7 ounces and Brooke was just 1 pound heavier. For almost two months, the neonatal IC unit at WakeMed has been their home.

"I'm counting my blessings, every day, prayerfully. I have a strong faith and they're doing good," she said.

The babies are gaining weight, but Kennedy continues to have breathing problems. Multiple birth babies are at greater risk of pre-maturity.

"We know in about half the cases what causes preterm birth. And the other half, we don't know," said Anna Bess Brown of the

March of Dimes


Last year in North Carolina, 16,078 babies were born premature. Thanks to improved care, more of those babies survive and go home. But the rate of preterm births in the U.S. continues to rise -- 30 percent since 1983.

"I really wouldn't wish, you know, for a family to go through having their baby in neonatal intensive care," said WakeMed neonatologist Dr. Anthony Jackman.

For many families, it's preventable. Good prenatal care with regular physician checkups are important, along with regular exercise and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. You should also make sure you get enough folic acid and other nutrients. Doctors may recommend multivitamins.

There are also things women should stay away from, like alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.

"We know that if a woman smokes or is around secondhand smoke, that can cause a baby to come early," Brown said.

Brown said women in their child-bearing years should practice those guidelines at all times, since half of all pregnancies are unplanned. It could lead to healthier, full-term pregnancies and a quicker trip home for many newborn babies.