Babies born before 37 weeks are premature. A premature birth is more likely to happen when a mother has a health problem — like diabetes — or does harmful things during her pregnancy. If she lives with a lot of stress, that also can make her baby be born too early.
Many things can cause a baby to be born early or with health problems. Some of these things can be controlled, but others can’t.
Start prenatal care as soon as you think you’re pregnant. Prenatal care is the health care that you get during pregnancy. All pregnant women should see a health care professional as soon as they think they’re pregnant, and should plan regular prenatal visits throughout pregnancy.
Get health problems treated. It’s best to have any health problems (like diabetes, depression, or high blood pressure) under control before becoming pregnant. But if you don’t, talk to your doctor right away about a treatment plan.
Eat a healthy diet. It’s important to eat a variety of healthy foods before and during pregnancy. Take a prenatal vitamin to be sure you’re getting enough folic acid, iron, and other important nutrients.
Gain the right amount of weight. How much weight you should gain depends on how much you weighed before you were pregnant. Most women who are at a healthy weight should gain about 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Overweight women should probably gain less.
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