By Birgitta Lauren November 24th, 2011

The good news according to the annual 2011 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, this November, is that preterm birth rates improved between 2006 and 2009, in most states, and several states by more than 10 percent, "The three-year improvement in the U.S. preterm birth rate from 12.6% to 12%, means that 40,000 more babies were given a healthy start in life and spared the risk of life-long health consequences of an early birth," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "…we saved at least $2 billion in health care and socio-economic costs. Now we owe it to the other half a million infants who were born too soon to work together to give them the same chance." Total cost is $26 Billion.
The improvement is due to a reduction of medically unnecessary c-sections and inductions scheduled before 39 weeks of pregnancy. Also new treatments, like progesterone has shown to prevent some preterm births in medically eligible women.
There are however, so many things than can cause premature delivery. Unfortunately today, women are only educated on how bad it is for their babies, and what the symptoms of prematurity are, not on how to prevent the symptoms in the first place. With America still having a 12% prematurity rate, double that of other developed countries, something has to be done to make a dent in this appalling rate. Proactive methods of natural prevention must happen, or the USA will lag behind forever. Since the statistics of prematurity and ill effects on the babies are repeated ad nauseum, I will not go into it. Info can be found at
The main cause of prematurity is:
STRESS on the body physically or mentally.
Stress can come from a plethora of avenues:

  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Anxiety about the pregnancy
  • Domestic or work related problems
  • Emergency or accidental stress: sudden loss of a loved one (death/divorce), or a job.
  • Disease, obesity and placental issues.
  • Gum disease
  • Infections
  • Lack of proper nutrition
  • Lack of exercise
  • Consumption of medications, drugs legal or illicit. Including anti-depressants and anti-nausea drugs.
  • Past childhood cancer survivors having received radiation.
  • Exposure to chemicals, toxins, mold and air-pollution.
  • Pregnancies achieved via IVF.
  • Being an African American mom
  • Uterine size/abnormalities

Except for the last one of uterine size, ALL of the above stress-factors can be minimized or modified for the better to help moms have healthier and full term pregnancies, with better nutrition, exercise and some common sense.
It was presented at the 2008 European Society of Human Reproduction & Embryology annual meeting, in Barcelona, Spain, that the size of the Uterus may predict risk for premature twins after IVF. Women with the smallest uteri (< 63 millimeters high) had a much greater chance of having babies born severely premature with an increased number of fetal deaths… compared with medium-size uteri (64 -70 mm high) and none among those with uterus >70 mm…. Measuring the height of the uterus can help doctors and women decide how many embryos should be transferred in one IVF attempt to avoid prematurity. Moms health can be improved with exercise and nutrition to minimize risk.
Hormonal fluctuations, natural in pregnancy, can be minimized with both exercise and nutrition. Both cardiovascular exercise like walking and strength training and yoga can help normalize hormones, reduce Cortisol, adrenaline and maternal CRH levels which all directly affect fetal development and the timing of labor. Stress relief like breathing exercises and meditation can also be effective and calming. Nutrition is of utmost importance for a healthy, happy and “least” stressed mom. Optimally, she should on top of a super healthy diet of exclusively fresh, healthy and lean meals consisting of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins, preferably organic if possible, consume a complete prenatal supplement that includes all 32 micronutrients, including all 12 B vitamins, Omega Fatty Acids from fish oil (DHA and EPA), and lots of Vitamin D or sunshine. She should also consume probiotics, either as a supplement or probiotic food of some sort (yogurt, coconut milk, etc…) . A pregnant woman must avoid sugar, soda, fried and processed junk foods as they exacerbate hormonal and other gestational problems. Depression is mostly a symptom of a lack of proper exercise and nutrition. These measures can minimize and prevent stress, depression and its ill effects on a pregnancy and growing baby. A healthy body is a healthier mind that can better deal with stress.
With anti-depressants causing hypertension, preeclampsia and a 500% higher risk of prematurity in themselves, they are not a good idea. SSRI’s in addition cause future infertility, hypertension, and obesity, pulmonary and mental issues in both mom and child.  With psychosis, paranoia, and abnormal behavior, Dr. Ronit Calderon-Margalit, lead researcher of a Hebrew University's Hadassah School of Public Health study, published in the March 2011 American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology noted that it was unclear whether or not the benefit being derived from taking the drugs is worth the significant increase in birthing complications. However, a mom that does end up taking such, can still minimize the effects on both herself and her baby if she eats healthy and exercises 4-6 times a week (necessary to keep blood pressure down).
Disease is also most often caused by nutritional and activity deficiencies. Gestational diabetes must and can of course be mostly prevented or “managed” with proper exercise and nutrition. Gestational diabetes seems to be a common affliction of Asian women, no matter how healthy a lifestyle. Probably due to the genetics of many generations, dating back thousands of years consuming so much white rice (personal theory). Obesity is of course very stressful while pregnant. The weight of the fat puts pressure on the uterus and often ends pregnancy prematurely. However, even a morbidly obese pregnant woman can have a full term delivery if she eats well and exercises daily. Exercise makes both the placenta and uterus stronger to better handle the pressure.
Gum disease is 100% preventable with good nutrition and proper dental hygiene. It is a big cause of prematurity. Both Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology advises to use mouth wash twice a day on top of brushing and flossing to avoid almost 75% of complications. However, your best mouth wash is to gargle with warm salt water. There is no need to buy toxic commercial mouth wash. Gargling with warm salt water also helps prevent colds and sore throats.
Intrauterine infections and bacteria cause considerably higher risk of morbidity, mortality and developmental problems. This risk is attributable to imbalanced inflammatory responses of the fetus and newborn. Half of all placentas from miscarriages and early deliveries harbor bacteria. Andrew Onderdonk of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital recommends that …–“probiotics during early pregnancy may hold promise for preventing not only preterm birth but also the devastating and far-reaching inflammatory consequences in premature newborns…” published by the American Society for Microbiology. In addition proper nutrition with plenty of anti-oxidants, exercise and avoiding anti-depressants will also help minimize infections by keeping the immune system healthy.
Nutrients help our bodies stay and be healthy, and much more so during a pregnancy when nutrient needs double and triple, do they actually help the baby grow and develop properly. But all nutrients work together like a symphony or a cake recipe. You cannot omit or supplement any one or just some nutrients exclusively, as this would create an imbalance and less than optimal health in your baby. Fresh foods also contain still unknown nutrients and substances we can’t supplement, which makes eating super healthy foods, avoiding all processed foods and taking a complete prenatal supplement for security, so important. Unfortunately most prenatal, especially prescription ones are sorely short of nutrients. And omega fatty acids need to include both DHA and EPA from fish oil, not the plant extracts that are processed with Hexane, a neurological petrochemical toxin.  
Vitamin D, preferably from sunshine is also vital for proper nutrient absorption, and a happy disposition. Vitamin D affects just about all bodily systems. And is likely one of the biggest culprits in premature delivery, especially among African Americans as they need much more sun exposure than fairer skin tones. African Americans prematurity rate is 2.5 times that of other ethnic groups. In addition to a lack of sun exposure, their consumption of processed, high fat foods is also higher than most ethnic groups. This issue needs to be addressed. It’s simple: more exercise and better nutrition would improve the outcome of African – American babies’ physical and mental health. It has to my knowledge never been dealt with. The bad statistics are just talked about.
Exercise is one of the best ways to prolong a pregnancy to full term. Bar none. A healthy body is strong and can handle the stresses of pregnancy. Even “high risk” bedridden moms should exercise on modified programs. The more “issues” a mom has the more important some kind of exercise becomes for her to keep healthy and sane. The less activity, the worse the outcome. Severely obese women can have full term deliveries with exercise. Those with placental issues, and yes even placenta previa must exercise, as exercise strengthens the placenta and lowers the risk of early delivery and/or abruptions. Specific exercises can also manipulate the placement of the baby in utero to avoid pressure on a complete placenta blocking the cervix.
Drugs of all kinds (legal or not), needs to be avoided as much as is possible throughout life, not just pregnancy as they will affect reproduction and fertility. Everything from vaccines, OTC pain/cold meds, prescription meds, cigarettes and illegal drugs like cocaine can affect fertility, length of pregnancy and the future health of the baby. During pregnancy moms must avoid medications if possible. Anti nausea drugs negates the moms ability to absorb Folate, the most important nutrient for baby’s development. And it’s mostly taken in first trimester, the most important development period. OTC pain meds can cause reproductive organ birth defects. Anti-biotics can have sever health implications on the baby and must be avoided if possible and infections preferably prevented with consumption of probiotics.
Pregnant women who survived childhood cancers, treated with radiation to the pelvic area, are more likely to deliver early, according to data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS). Excellent nutrition and exercise could minimize effects and lengthen pregnancies.
Air pollution has also been shown to increase premature delivery, reports the September 2006 issue of the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, but unless a mom can move out to the country side, all she can do is otherwise live very healthy to avert the effects. Mold in the home can be tremendously stressful on a mom’s immune system and therefore leave her at a higher risk for early delivery. Mold must be removed.
Other toxins like BPA from plastics, food cans and many cosmetics/skin care products should be avoided. Mercury can be avoided by not buying the new so-called energy efficient light bulbs as they are made of Mercury. Just being lit they emit carcinogenic effects, and if one breaks, both moms and baby will be poisoned with the resulting mental problems. Also not eating really large fishes high in Mercury, like shark, swordfish, halibut, and sushi grade tuna. Most other fish is not only fine, but very necessary for a healthy pregnancy and baby, both for its Omega, vitamin D and selenium content. A lack of fish in the diet is can cause brain damage with behavioral and learning issues. Not using mercury for your tooth cavities is also important. For more info on chemicals in products, go to .
If mom’s been exposed to any drugs or chemicals, the harmless herb Milk Thistle should be taken to help detoxify the liver and increases the need for taking vitamin supplements, as omegas, B vitamins, and selenium in particular help negate the bad side effects of all toxins.
Increased amounts of IVF procedures, especially those resulting in multiple pregnancies do of course also add to early deliveries. There is no consensus yet though whether the IVF medications, the age of the mother, the fact of her infertility, is a part of the risk factor or it’s just the fact that multiples carry a higher risk in and of itself. Pregnancy reductions can dramatically add risk as it stresses the uterus. And this is one area where we could never tell an infertile woman she can’t have IVF… that would be cruel. And again, with exercise and nutrition any IVF pregnancy will be so much healthier and more likely to go full term.
So in essence, almost all issues leading to an early delivery can be avoided or minimized with exercise and nutrition. Why is this not addressed? So-called health, maternity and infant organizations and in particular drug companies that make preemie drugs….that throw lavish conferences discussing the problem and relaying statistic after statistic of how bad prematurity is…. without ever even discussing any “real” proactive preventative solutions.  This past April, Dr. Esplin, an associate professor of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Utah, said: -“…we could have a really huge impact, if we could even prolong a pregnancy by one or two weeks” with spotting 80% of possible pre-term births with new blood tests and peptide biomarkers. But here again, it’s all about “catching” the preterm mom and “treating” her usually with drugs…. even when  symptomatic prematurity is eminent, there is never prevention, just treatment prolonging the inevitable event. Some procedures are invasive, even when they don’t have to be. Preeclampsia can be spotted and predicted weeks ahead by just checking blood pressure daily. If both systolic and diastolic numbers suddenly creep up 5-10 points or more after 25 weeks gestation, preeclampsia is most likely eminent. The urine protein test usually won’t show positive until 2 weeks later. Within that time frame the risk of preeclampsia can be eliminated with a drastic improvement in exercise and nutrition. In this case, exercise, needs to be done daily, - no excuses, (even when bedridden bed rest exercises can be performed to slow things down) and nutritional intake need be exemplary – no excuses, both in food intake, vitamins, enzymes and probiotics. I’ve seen good nutritional supplements eliminate even chronic hypertension during gestation within days.
So in summary, let’s quit talking and let’s just do the right thing. Moms need to exercise, eat right, take prenatals and probiotics, avoid drugs and chemicals; brush, floss and mouth wash, and get plenty of sleep and sunshine. Health starts in the womb. Every baby deserves to be born healthy. Like Ms. Howse said: “We owe it to them”.
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