By J. Chevonte’ Alexander
One in eight babies is born prematurely. November is Prematurity Awareness Month and is dedicated to bringing attention to this complicated and difficult public health problem.
Urban Views Weekly had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Nancy Jallo, Associate Professor with the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Nursing. In addition to teaching at the School of Nursing and conducting research, Dr. Nancy Jallo serves the community as a Nurse Practitioner at Crossover Clinic in Richmond. Her research focuses on developing and testing self-management interventions to reduce stress and improve maternal and infant outcomes.
“I believe nursing has a tremendous role in delivering quality care and advancing the health and well-being of families.” comments Dr. Jallo.
Preterm birth is the birth of an infant before 37 weeks of pregnancy. In 2014, preterm birth affected about 1 of every 10 infants born in the United States. Preterm birth is the greatest contributor to infant death, with most preterm-related deaths occurring among babies who were born very preterm (before 32 weeks). Preterm birth is also a leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities in children.
“We all have stress, but learning how to manage and cope with stress better can be one of the interventions for mothers during this time, so that she and the baby can have the best outcome.” says Jallo.
Stressors for Preterm Births
- Social, personal, and economic characteristics (financial, transportation, relationship dynamics, support system)
- Low or high maternal age
- Low maternal income or socioeconomic status
Preterm birth is a complex issue and problem and no one answer to solve it. So, what are some of the risk factors?
- Mother delivered a preterm baby in the past
- Mother is pregnant with multiples
- Problem with uterus/cervix
Medical risk factors
- High blood pressure
- Premature rupture of membrane
- Under/over weight
- Getting pregnant too soon after having a baby
- Risk factors in everyday life
Preterm rates have decreased over the last 6 to 8 years, but there is a huge health disparity with race. There is an increased risk for African American women and Hispanic women vs. Caucasian women.
“African American women have shown to experience more stress than their counterparts. Even though numbers overall have decreased, rates are still high for segments of our population.” said Jallo.
There is a higher risk of serious disability or death the earlier the baby is born. Some problems that a baby born too early may face include—
- Breathing problems
- Feeding difficulties
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delay
- Vision problems
- Hearing impairment
Preterm births also may cause emotional and economic burdens for families.
What are the warning signs of preterm labor?
In most cases, preterm labor begins unexpectedly and the cause is unknown. Like regular labor, signs of early labor are—
- Contractions (the abdomen tightens like a fist) every 10 minutes or more often
- Change in vaginal discharge (a significant increase in the amount of discharge or leaking fluid or bleeding from the vagina)
- Pelvic pressure—the feeling that the baby is pushing down
- Low, dull backache
- Cramps that feel like a menstrual period
- Abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea
How can we as a community help bring awareness to this issue?
- Continue to talk about the issue, read and be aware of the signs of preterm labor
- Show encouragement for mothers
- Preconception care – take care of yourself even before you get pregnant
- Get involved, like the March of Dimes
The awareness month kicks off with the release of the Premature Birth Report Card. November 17 marks World Prematurity Day, and the March of Dimes and other organizations worldwide are asking everyone to help spread the word on the serious problem of premature birth.
March of Dimes Prematurity Awareness Month