Healthy Pregnancy/Healthy Baby Series: Part 1
By Helen Risse RN MSN
If you work with pregnant women, you have a great opportunity to improve birth outcomes. When a new client visits your pregnancy help organization, this may be the only contact you have with her.
What should she be sure to know before she leaves you? Does she know her due date? Will you be telling her based on the first day of her last menstrual period?
It is important to define due date and term pregnancy. Remind your new mother that her due date is really a due time that looks at two weeks before to two weeks after that date as being "term". Many people still think of pregnancy in terms of nine months. Explain that pregnancy is defined as 40 weeks or 10 lunar months.
At the end of 2013, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) redefined the meaning of "term".
- Early term: Between 37 weeks, 0 days and 38 weeks, 6 days.
- Full term: Between 39 weeks, 0 days and 40 weeks, 6 days.
- Later term: Between 41 weeks, 0 days and 41 weeks, 6 days.
- Post term: Between 42 weeks, 0 days and beyond.
Research has noted that the brain of a baby at 35 weeks, 0 days grows in size by two-thirds in the following four weeks.
Research has noted that although the weight of a baby may look normal, babies born before 39 weeks are sleepier babies. These babies do not latch and suckle as well as babies born at 39 weeks 0 days. They have more problems with higher bilirubin levels. These concerns can lead to serious consequences. The choice of an elective delivery date must factor in these findings.
Women should also be taught the signs of preterm labor. Teach women about contractions. Explain what they may feel and describe those symptoms that should put them on alert.
Describe contractions as feeling like:
- Menstrual cramps
- Low, dull backache
- Pelvic pressure—feeling that the baby is pushing down
- Heavy feeling in your pelvis (pelvic congestion)
- Stomach cramps—with or without diarrhea
- The abdomen may tighten or get firm then relax or soften
Describe vaginal discharge or bleeding:
- An increase or change in your normal vaginal discharge
- Red, brown or pink discharge or spotting
Describe water breaks:
- Gush of fluid from vagina
- Slow trickle of fluid from vagina-(panties feel wet and you don't know why)
General feeling that something is not right.
What should she do if she thinks she may be having preterm labor? Below are some guidelines you may discuss with your Medical Director to develop a policy/procedure for your center.
- Empty bladder
- Drink 1-2 glasses of water or juice (no caffeine, sugar, or sports drinks)
- Lie down on your side and time the contractions from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next. Write down when the contractions start.
If the contractions are coming more than every 15 minutes or 4-6 in an hour, call your doctor.
It is important to stay well hydrated. Dehydration can often cause a woman to experience contractions.
Women should know the risks that increase concerns for preterm labor. Women who are at greatest risk for preterm labor are those who have had a previous preterm birth, as well as those who are pregnant with multiples, and those with certain abnormalities of their uterus or cervix.
Other risk factors include smoking, drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs, domestic violence, including physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or lack of support.
Additional risks factors related to her health include infections, including urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, second trimester bleeding from the vagina, being underweight before pregnancy, obesity, and a short time period between pregnancies.
When asked if there is anything that can be done to prevent preterm labor, tell a woman to:
- See her doctor early and regularly during pregnancy,
- Eat nutritious meals and snacks,
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water, juice or milk every day, and
- Avoid cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and medications not prescribed by her doctor.
If you have one visit from a pregnant woman and pass on this information, you may contribute to an improved outcome. Every extra day her baby is in a healthy intrauterine environment is positive for the development of her baby, which in turn can be a big help to a new mother.
Spong CY. Defining "Term" Pregnancy: Recommendations From the Defining "Term" Pregnancy Workgroup. JAMA. 2013;309(23):2445-2446. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.62
ACOG Clinical Guidelines: Definition of term pregnancy. Committee Opinion No. 579. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2013;122:1139–40.35
Go the Full 40 Campaign tool Kit :http://www.health4mom.org/pregnancy/healthy_pregnancyo
The last weeks of pregnancy count: July 5th, 2012l Kit: http://newsmomsneed.marchofdimes.com/?tag=brain-development