Every year, an estimated 13 million babies are born too soon and too small. More than a million of these tiny babies do not survive. Premature birth is a big problem in the United States. In other parts of the world, where hospitals and health providers may be ill-equipped to care for preemies, or the nearest hospital is days away, the problem is even more serious.
This blog is dedicated to one of my favorite little girls Maiya, who lights up a room every time she walks in, makes you laugh hysterically and has more personality at the ripe age of 4 than most adults I know. She is truly a fighter, strong willed and very determined. Much like she was on the day she was born.
Maiya was born 8 weeks premature with underdeveloped organs, a lot of hair and so small that I could literally hold her in one hand. Her mother, one of my best friends, spent weeks at the NICU, waiting to hear the words from the doctor — “You can take her home.” When that day finally arrived, we were all overjoyed with an enormous amount of faith that Maiya would grow strong and develop into the amazing little girl she is today. My girlfriend did everything she thought was right — early prenatal care, healthy diet, no smoking, no drinking, etc. But we also know that prematurity can be caused by so many different things. So, while we may not have the answer to the question “why this baby?” we do know she is a survivor.
As one of her many Aunties, I am so thankful to not only Maiya’s NICU nurses but to all of the nurses around the country. Your job is so critical and I wonder if you truly know how much relief you provide to families every day. It is because of you that babies are strong enough to go home sooner rather than later.
I encourage you all to spread the word about prematurity and help increase the awareness so we can reduce then number of babies that are born too soon. We need to fight ― because babies shouldn’t have to.
This post is dedicated to all of my friends who are either pregnant, trying to get pregnant or think they may want to get pregnant some day. For those of you outside of the world of public health, there has been a new focus since 2006 on preparing a woman’s body BEFORE she thinks about getting pregnant. It’s called preconception health and health care. Naturally, when most women hear the word “preconception” they automatically break it down in their minds and think this doesn’t apply to them because they are not thinking about being pregnant anytime soon. But that is the key — having a healthy body BEFORE you even begin thinking about getting pregnant or planning to get pregnant. Because 50% of the U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, it is even more important for a woman to be healthy NOW and not when it’s too late. It’s simple actually — healthy women=healthy babies and healthy babies=healthy communities. It’s a cyclical effect.
Generally, a woman doesn’t know she is pregnant until after 4 weeks of gestation which is the most critical period of development. This is why preconception health trumps prenatal health and care. By taking of your body in advance, you can feel a little better about that 4 week period of development, that you may not be aware of, because you know you were eating healthy, exercising, less drinking of alcohol and not smoking.
Here is an idea of what is happening during those first 4 weeks:
Neural tube forms - It will develop into the nervous system (Brain, spinal cord, hair, and skin). The baby already has the foundation for thought, senses, feeling, and more!
The heart and primitive circulatory system rapidly form – While still in its beginning stages, this is the very life support system that will carry the baby throughout his or her life.
So ladies (and men), I ask that you if you are thinking about having a baby next month or two years from now, that you do some simple things today to help you have a healthy baby and healthy pregnancy. It will make a difference!
- Get a check-up for high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, seizures and thyroid disease.
- Get tested for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Take a vitamin with folic acid every day.
- Eat healthy, with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Be active! Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
- Keep stress under control and do pleasant things that will keep you in good spirits.
- Don’t smoke, drink or use drugs.
I have so many girlfriends who have either had babies within the last six months or who are having babies within the next six months. I am so happy for each of them and their wonderful new blessings. I am even happier that they are saving me $35 a month because they are truly the BEST birth control any single woman could ever have!!
Seriously, some of them are on their very first and a few are already on their second. Each is having different pregnancy experiences than the other, but they are all experiencing one of the most wonderful yet stressful life events ever. One of my girlfriends who is having her first baby asked me to write a post about pregnancy and stress. So this is for her and all women who are planning a pregnancy, are currently pregnant or looking to be pregnant again. I hope the information is helpful.
One can only imagine what goes through a woman’s mind when she first finds out she is going to have a baby. She is probably filled with joy, excitement, anxiety, worry and a maybe even a little fear. In talking to several friends who have a baby or are having a baby, they have shared their fears or anxiety about “knowing what to do.” Who wouldn’t have such fears if you have NEVER done this before. It’s not quite like learning to ride a bike. You are carrying a life inside of you that is dependent on you for everything! Talk about pressure on a soon-to-be mom. The questions she asks herself are endless – - What do or don’t I eat? What do or don’t I drink? How much should I stand or walk? Is the way I’m sleeping hurting the baby? Know that these are very natural questions to ask and yes can sometimes cause you a little anxiety or stress. But do your best not to stress over these things. Perhaps making a list of questions to ask your doctor at each appointment or using a pregnancy guide like Baby Basics (offered by the What to Expect Foundation) may provide answers for some of your concerns.
I am sure you have heard or been told that stress can be harmful to your baby. While true, generally this caution is referring to chronic or high levels of stress. Within the past few years, there have been an increased number of studies that show chronic stress can have a negative impact on pregnancy as it is related to pre-term births and other adverse birth outcomes. Therefore, one of the most important things a woman can do during her pregnancy is to remove chronic or high-level stress from her life when possible. The death of a loved one, change in financial status, or another life-changing event may cause some unusually high stress. When something like this does happen during your pregnancy, there are a few methods you can try to reduce your level of stress.
The March of Dimes suggests a few simple things soon-to-be moms can do to help out with all levels of sress: