Source: Web exclusive: October 2009
If you’re healthy and your pregnancy is going well, it is unlikely that you’ll have a premature birth, but being prepared for any scenario will help reduce stress and anxiety as the months go by.
1. Prepare mentally
You could spend your entire pregnancy worrying about when you’ll go into labour, but that will only result in unwanted stress and tension, which can be harmful to yourself and your baby. A healthy lifestyle and positive mind set can go a long way towards preventing preterm labour.
There are many classes tailored to women wanting to stay active and healthy throughout their pregnancy. Prenatal classes can teach you breathing techniques that will help you focus and remain calm at various stages of your pregnancy. Controlled breathing can also help you relax during the excitement and anxiety of labour, whenever that should arise.
2. Acquaint yourself with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
To prepare yourself for any situation, ask to take a tour of the NICU when you tour the hospital. This is where premature babies are cared for by a team of specially trained doctors and nurses. It may be frightening at first to see the tiny babies hooked up to monitors and sleeping in incubators, but you’ll also see happy parents holding and cuddling their preterm babies.
Ask a NICU nurse or neonatologist to explain what each machine does and what you can expect should you have preterm labour. The more you understand about the NICU, the more you’ll be prepared. Much of the emotional turmoil suffered by parents of preterm babies comes from not knowing what’s going on. Feeling helpless can be very frustrating. Once you understand that the NICU staff are doing everything possible to help your baby, you’ll be able to relax and help care for your infant.
3. Put aside guilty feelings
Every woman who has ever had a premature baby has wondered what she did wrong during her pregnancy. Some factors that contribute to preterm labour are known, while others remain a mystery. Maternal causes including high blood pressure, trauma or infection. Complications with the placenta or uterus can also influence the length of a pregnancy. Sometimes premature births occur for unknown reasons and other times, doctors may decide a baby needs to be born early for medical reasons.
Whatever the cause, you must remember that it’s not your fault. If you feel you did something wrong during your pregnancy to cause your baby to arrive early, talk to your doctor or nurse. They’ll assure you that you’re not to blame and they’ll help you focus on the task at hand’taking care of your baby.
4. Ask for support
Caring for a premature baby can be more time consuming and emotionally draining than fulfilling the needs of a full-term infant. Asking friends and family for support can help make things much easier. They can help with household chores, running errands, caring for older children and, if your baby is in the NICU, driving you back and forth to hospital.
Don’t feel guilty about going home to get some rest while your baby is cared for by nurses and doctors, especially if you’ve had a cesarean section. You need time to heal and get your energy back in preparation of bringing your baby home. A strong support team of friends and family can help ease the overwhelming feelings of guilt and exhaustion that you may experience.
5. Know the warning signs of preterm labour
If you experience any labour signs before your 37th week of pregnancy, call your doctor. Whether your water breaks, you start having contractions or you just feel that something isn’t right, it’s better to be safe and go to hospital. Even if it’s a false alarm, you’ll feel better knowing that you’re doing everything you can for the well-being of your unborn child.
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