7 ways to reduce your risks of a stillbirth
Article by Cherlynn Ng
Stillbirth is when a baby dies during labour, after 28 weeks of pregnancy. Anything before that is considered a miscarriage. There are an estimated 80 to 120 stillbirths in Singapore annually. This equates to about 2 or 3 in every 1,000 pregnancies, one of the lowest rates in the world.
Although not all the causes of stillbirth are currently known, some common issues are birth defects, maternal conditions and problems with the placenta or umbilical cord. It is impossible to completely eliminate the risks of having a stillbirth. However, knowing what to look out for, when to seek help and taking extra care can help reduce the chances of this tragic event.
Here are seven simple things you can do to reduce the risks of having a stillbirth:
1. Attend all your antenatal appointments
Make sure to go for all your antenatal appointments so that any problems can be identified early. Some tests and procedures meant to identify potential issues have to be done at specific stages in the pregnancy. Keeping to these appointments also allows your doctor to give you relevant information and advice as your pregnancy progresses.
2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
A healthy diet and regular exercise are both equally important. Eat well and have a good variety of different foods every day to get the right balance of nutrients. Remember that everything you put in your body has an impact on your baby, whether good or bad. You should also start taking vitamins and supplements such as folic acid. Meanwhile, avoid certain foods known to be detrimental to pregnant women such as raw fish or caffeine.
It’s also vital to keep active during this golden period. The fitter you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. This will also help you cope with labour and get back into shape after childbirth.
Make sure not to over-exert yourself, however. Exercise does not have to be intense or strenuous to be effective. Even a short stroll outdoors or pelvic exercises in the comfort of your own home can do wonders.
3. No alcohol
The most effective way of ensuring that your foetus is not damaged by alcohol is to refrain from drinking it at all. Consuming alcohol while pregnant can lead to negative and lasting impact on the baby. The more you drink, the higher the risk.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and your baby having a low birth weight. It can also result in learning difficulties, behavioral problems and various developmental issues in your child after they are born. The worst case scenario is foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which occurs when alcohol damages the cells in your baby’s brain, spinal cord and other parts of their vulnerable body.
4. No smoking
Smoking is another huge no-no that should be cut out completely, unless you want to risk your baby being born prematurely, having a low birth weight or suffering from birth defects. Smoking during and after pregnancy also increases the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Pregnant women should quit smoking immediately (if applicable) and advise those around them to do the same, as passive smoking is just as harmful.
5. Avoid people with infectious diseases
Pregnant women should avoid contact with sick people wherever possible, especially those with infectious conditions such as diarrhoea, vomiting and chickenpox. Some of these viruses are dangerous and can cause complications for both mother and child. For instance, cytomegalovirus can result in hearing loss, visual impairment or blindness, learning difficulties and epilepsy in unborn babies.
If you have been in contact with someone with an infection, seek medical advice promptly.
6. Maintain proper hygiene
On a similar note, you should be rigorous when it comes to maintaining good hygiene to reduce the chances of infection. Wash your hands frequently, such as before handling food, after meals, after visiting the toilet and so on.
7. Sleep on your side in the last trimester
According to studies, going to sleep on your back after 28 weeks of pregnancy doubles the risk of stillbirth. This may have to do with the flow of blood and oxygen to the foetus. Therefore, it is recommended that you sleep on your side in your last trimester of pregnancy. Do not fret if you wake up on your back; just turn on to either side of your body and resume sleeping.
See your doctor immediately if you experience abnormal symptoms or anything feels wrong, like when there is a change in your baby’s movements. We wish you a smooth pregnancy!
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