- Medical Complications During Pregnancy
Pregnancy usually lasts between 37 and 42 weeks. If labour begins before 37 weeks, it is called preterm labour. Preterm labour may lead to premature birth, which can cause problems for the baby.
Low Birth Weight
A healthy birth weight is very important for a good start in life. When a mother is healthy, she is more likely to give birth to a healthy baby. Babies born weighing less than 2.5kg (5.5 pounds) are considered to be 'low birth weight'. Low birth weight babies can have life long health problems.
The two main causes of low birth weight are early delivery, also known as preterm birth, and poor fetal growth. The majority of low birth weight babies are born prematurely. Approximately 30% of these babies are born near their due date, yet they did not grow properly in the womb.
Some reasons for this may be:
- Smoking: women who smoke are 2-3 times more likely to have a low birth weight baby
- Exposure to second hand smoke
- Abuse or family violence
- Living in poverty
- Poor nutrition: women who do not gain at least 10 kg (22 pounds) are 2-3 times more likely to have a low birth weight baby
- Being underweight before pregnancy
- Mothers age at time of pregnancy: women under 20 and over 45 are more likely to have a low birth weight baby
- Lack of social support
- Exhaustion or lack of rest
- Use of alcohol & drugs
Prevention of Low Birth Weight:
- Start prenatal care with your health care provider as early as possible in the pregnancy
- Go to Prenatal Classes early in your pregnancy
- Eat according to Canada's Food Guide for Healthy Eating
- Continue to be physically active, but don't push yourself beyond your comfort level
- Avoid smoking and second hand smoke
- Avoid drinking alcohol; there is no known safe amount or time for alcohol use in pregnancy
- Avoid using street drugs
- Rest when you feel tired; try to get 8 hours of sleep at night
- Try to reduce stress in your life
- Check with your doctor before stopping any prescription medication
- Check with your health care provider before taking any over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements
- If you are in an abusive relationship, talk to someone; Abuse often gets worse during pregnancy - Do what you need to do to protect yourself and your baby.
- Talk with your employer if you feel a change in work assignment is needed
- Learn about the signs & symptoms of preterm labour; know what to do if it happens to you