Can You Prevent Preterm Labor?
Compelling new research says it may be possible. Here, nine surprising ways to help get your baby to term - and to a healthier start in life
6. Eat right and exercise. Eating a nutritious diet during pregnancy can be vital to healthy fetal development. That means whole-wheat carbs, healthy sources of protein and dairy, and an abundance of fruits and vegetables. While it's too early to make definitive dietary recommendations, recent studies suggest that women who have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids (found in such fish as salmon) have lower rates of preterm birth. Since these fatty acids are essential to healthy fetal brain development, it's worth including them in your diet.
Other preliminary studies suggest that calcium and vitamin C may help prevent preterm labor -- and both are a smart idea during pregnancy. Healthy sources of calcium, such as skim milk and low-fat yogurt, help build healthy baby bones. Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits and juices, helps your body absorb iron and produce connective tissue in your baby. It's recommended that pregnant women consume 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day (the equivalent of four 8-ounce glasses of skim milk) and 85 mg of vitamin C, roughly the amount in one orange.
Another no-brainer is regular exercise. It can reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes, and recent research suggests that it may help prevent preeclampsia as well. One study found that women who walked for exercise during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy lowered their risk of preeclampsia by a third. Exercise can also help you relax, which is important given that severe chronic stress may kick-start labor.
Talk to your doctor about pregnancy-safe workouts; in general, swimming, walking, and yoga are good options. Contact sports and activities that involve heavy lifting or could cause you to lose your balance are out. You'll also want to stop smoking, drinking alcohol, or using recreational drugs, all of which drastically increase your odds of early delivery.