Preterm birth is when a baby is born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy have been completed. In 2016, preterm birth affected about 1 of every 10 infants born in the United States.
A number of maternal medical conditions are associated with an increased risk of indicated or spontaneous preterm birth, including, for example, chronic hypertension, prepregnancy diabetes mellitus, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Smoking, obesity and other issues affecting the mother’s overall health play an important factor throughout a woman’s pregnancy. Smoking is an important determinant of health and a significant factor contributing to preterm and low birthweight births. In 2013, 22.5% of women of childbearing age reported smoking in South Carolina.
While being obese does not directly cause preterm birth, it does increase rates of medical complications (e.g., hypertension, diabetes) that do contribute to preterm birth. In South Carolina, 32.0% of women of childbearing age were obese in 2013.
Addressing these issues as well as others in the early stages of pregnancy can prolong gestational age which can lead to less preterm births and healthier babies.