Providing your baby with the best possible chance to survive and thrive begins the moment you suspect you may be pregnant. Begin early and maintain good prenatal care for you and your unborn baby throughout your pregnancy. This means:
- Eat the right foods
- Take recommended prenatal vitamins
- Do not smoke
- Do not use drugs or alcohol
- Get frequent medical checkups with your doctor or nurse
- Ask your doctor about tests for Group B Strep prior to delivery
- Make sure you are familiar with signs of pre-term labor
Maintaining good prenatal care for you and your unborn baby is the first step to protecting your baby from SIDS, stillbirth and other causes of infant death. Research shows that some babies are more vulnerable to SIDS than others due to an abnormality in their brainstem that occurs as the fetus is developing. Maternal conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and blood clotting disorders also increase the risk of stillbirth if not detected and treated during pregnancy. Share any concerns you may have about your pregnancy with your doctor, but call immediately if you experience any vaginal bleeding, leakage or sharp pain at any point in your pregnancy. These could be signs of complications that could lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or a low birth-weight baby that is at increased risk for SIDS.
Do not smoke during your pregnancy and do not allow your baby to be exposed to secondhand smoke after birth. Cigarette smoking and environmental smoke exposure collectively represent one of the most lethal health hazards for women and infants. Smoking has been shown to dramatically increase a woman’s risk of complications during pregnancy and birth and to decrease an infant’s chances of survival and good health. Babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy are at 2 to 3 times greater risk for SIDS and stillbirth, and that risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked. Exposure to secondhand smoke after birth also puts your baby at increased risk for SIDS and other respiratory illness. Low birth weight, prematurity and perinatal deaths are linked to smoking during pregnancy. In addition, new research warns of the dangers of “third-hand” smoke, the chemicals left behind on skin, hair, clothing, carpet, furniture and in cars. Always keep your baby in a smoke-free environment!
It’s Never Too Late to Quit
If you do smoke, you are not alone. Approximately 20 percent of all women in the United States smoke, according to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey and the 2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Studies reveal that nationally, 11.4 percent of pregnant women smoke and in some states, as many as 27 percent of pregnant women smoke. Also, many non-smoking pregnant women are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke from their partners, spouses or co-workers. If you need help, you can find valuable resources on the Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s website and BecomeAnEx.org.