Why the last few weeks of pregnancy are so important to your growing baby

Pregnant womanMost pregnant women can testify to the difficultly of the last month of pregnancy. You feel fat, can’t sleep comfortably and lose your breath walking up the stairs. The list of physical discomforts is lengthy. Despite these unpleasant side effects, the last few weeks of pregnancy are very important to the growing baby as essential organs like brain, liver and kidneys continue to develop.

Late preterm infants, born between 34 and 37 weeks of pregnancy, often appear healthy and frequently receive care after birth similar to full-term babies. These babies room with their mothers and are cared for in a newborn nursery. However, these late preterm infants often need additional time to develop and have a higher risk for complications than infants born at full term. Complications specific to late preterm infants include feeding difficulties, low blood sugar, jaundice, respiratory distress and an inability to maintain body temperature. Late preterm infants also have a higher readmission rate to the hospital.

So, what is a pregnant woman to do?

First, and most importantly, make sure you receive consistent prenatal care from a licensed health care provider throughout your entire pregnancy. Since most causes of prematurity are unknown or related to conditions the mother has no control over, it is important to have good medical care before, during and after a pregnancy.

There are some causes mothers have control over related to lifestyle including smoking, obesity, drinking alcohol, high levels of stress, domestic violence and lack of social support. For women who find they are struggling with any of these problems, they should be encouraged to speak up during their prenatal health care visits. Making lifestyle changes can be difficult but the mother’s health and the health of the baby will be better as a result.

Visit chw.org/pregnancyresources for more information about late preterm births and prenatal care.

- Katie Malin, RN, MSN, APNP, NNP-BC, neonatal nurse practitioner, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Katie Malin, RN, MSN, APNP, NNP-BC 

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