Last updated on Jun 11th, 2021 at 12:35 pm

By Robyn Forrester

A premature birth is defined as occurring before the 37th week of pregnancy. They usually occur in one of three stages: late pre-term (between 34 and 37 weeks), very pre-term (less than 32 weeks), and extremely preterm (less than 25 weeks).
Most preterm births happen in the late pre-term stage of 34 to 37 weeks.

Common risk factors for premature births

  • Smoking or drug use
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Carrying twins or multiples
  • Uterine infection
  • A shortened cervix
  • If you’re 35 or older
  • Overweight or underweight
  • A previous pre-term birth.

Tips for carrying full-term

Plan ahead

  • If you’re planning to conceive, begin supplementing with a multivitamin that contains vitamin B and folic acid. Folic acid may reduce the risk of the placenta separating from the uterine wall. It also assists in reducing high blood pressure. Both conditions are evident in around 20% of pre-term deliveries.
  • See the dentist. Gum disease has been shown to increase the risk of pre-term birth, and studies reveal that regular dental checks, with deep cleaning, can reduce the risk by 84%.

Watch your weight

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  • The average amount you should put on during pregnancy is 9 – 11kg. Too much or too little weight can cause a premature birth, so it’s essential to follow a healthy eating plan and exercise regularly. Research shows that women with a body mass index lower than 20 (a healthy BMI is 20 to 25) are less likely to carry their baby full term.

Follow a gentle exercise routine

  • Don’t overdo the exercise but ensure it’s regular. Swimming, walking and yoga are all gentle, effective ways of keeping fit during your pregnancy.

Avoid the blues

  • Although hormonal changes can affect your mood, spiralling into depression puts you at high risk of pre-term labour. If you’re battling with depression, see a doctor immediately. There are mood-lifting medications that are safe to take during your pregnancy.

Get tested

  • Bacterial infections of the uterus or vagina can be cleared up quite easily but, if left unchecked, can have a negative effect on your pregnancy health.

Keep calm

  • Stress is linked to pre-term birth, so try to keep your anxiety to a minimum, and have physical, emotional and financial support in place.

Stopping labour

When your body is ready to go into labour, there isn’t a lot that can be done to stop the process.
Bed rest is the most common advice, and some doctors prescribe medication to keep the muscles in the uterus relaxed. During this period, corticosteroids are sometimes used for speeding up the development of your baby’s lungs.
Hydration and rest are key issues, as well as staying relaxed.
The key to getting through your pregnancy full term is all about a healthy mind and body. Ensure that your eating habits reflect a well-balanced diet, take the right supplements, get enough exercise, and keep your stress levels to a minimum.