Ideally, each pregnancy would be full term, with both mother and baby healthy enough to go at least 39 weeks. But about 1 in 9 births in the U.S. each year is classified as preterm. Sometimes your OB/GYN may have to induce labor early to protect the health of you or your baby, or both. At other times, you may unexpectedly go into premature labor that your doctor is unable to stop. The following five tips can help prepare you in the event of a premature delivery:
1. Take plenty of photos of your baby
You'll naturally be under stress, but don't forget to take plenty of photos of your baby. He or she may be hooked up to various wires and machines, but don't worry about those. You may not be able to hold him or her immediately, but you can still take photos. If your baby is able to have a small stuffed animal, include it in photos so you can see how much your child is growing from week to week. In comparison, the stuffed animal will look smaller and smaller over time!
2. Learn from the nurses
Your baby will have expert care 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Nurses are happy to show you what they can about caring for your baby. As you're able to hold your baby more and more, you can learn how to do everything from swaddling to helping with more intricate care as allowed. This will help you bond with your baby and help ease the transition when you take your baby home.
3. Have contact with your baby
Have as much physical contact with your baby as you can. The benefits of skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby are well documented. If you can breastfeed, it can also help your baby, even if he or she has to take the breast milk through a tube.
4. Connect with other parents
Sometimes it can be hard to relate to parents who sailed through pregnancy and took their full-term, healthy baby home from the hospital the day after he or she was born. But other parents in the NICU know just what you're going through. Get to know them, and you'll have an instant support group.
5. Take care of yourself
If you need a break, take one. Don't neglect your own health or needs. You need to take care of yourself so you can care for your baby, especially once he or she is home. Make sure you're getting enough to eat and drink and are getting enough rest. Your baby is receiving excellent care, so don't be afraid to take a break when you need one. It will help you both in the long run.
Ask an OB/GYN at a clinic like Tri-County Women's Health Care if you may be at increased risk for premature birth. He or she can let you know how to increase the odds that you'll have a full-term birth and help you prepare in the best ways possible if you don't.