Despite so many advances in obstetrical care, premature delivery and more
importantly it’s consequences on the not so ready newborn remain
a major challenge. 5-10% of babies are currently born prematurely, and
account for the majority of serious newborn illness and death. Classic
risk factor includes severe medical illnesses (like high blood pressure
& diabetes), socioeconomic circumstances, multiple fetuses, and most
importantly a history of previous early delivery.
Interestingly dental hygiene, specifically gingivitis (gum disease) also
contributes to premature deliveries. Why the human body doesn’t
reject a developing pregnancy as a foreign body remains a medical mystery?
Recurrent bacteria circulating in the bloodstream somehow alters this
masking process. Likewise disturbances in vaginal bacteria also seem to
Countless clinical trials have shown most medications are futile at arresting
preterm labor more than a few days. A cortisone injection helps prevent
some of the complications of premature delivery such as accelerating lung
maturity and decreasing bleeding into the fragile premature baby’s
brain. Recently weekly progesterone injections given prophylacticaly have
been shown to prolong gestation for women with a previous preterm delivery.
They need to begin early around 16-18 weeks gestation.
So if you’re contemplating having a baby in the near term see your
primary care doctor to optimize medical conditions and check that prescription
medications are safe to continue. Please also begin folate supplementation
(400 mcg commonly found in most multi-vitamins), establish consistent
dental hygiene practices (brushing, flossing, and mouthwash), and clear
any suspected vaginal infections. While not the “answer” to
premature deliveries, these steps may help you have a healthier baby.
Can brushing your teeth, and taking a vitamin really help you have a healthy
pregnancy and full-term baby?
To learn more about pregnancy,
visit our women’s health library