Recently, the outbreak of the Zika virus has made international news and raised alarms about the risks this mosquito-borne illness presents to unborn babies.
This is certainly a new and urgent threat to mothers and the babies they carry. The attention surrounding the outbreak is intense and growing.
While the risk for complications from that appears low in our community for the moment, we will be learning more as public health experts determine how best to protect ourselves and those yet to be born.
Still, the best way to assure your baby is born healthy and safe is to carry it to its full term. Everybody says that’s nine months, but doctors say, for the vast majority of expectant mothers, 39 weeks is the proper amount of time.
Many times mothers-to-be have reasons for wanting to deliver early, some for medical reasons but often for reasons of personal convenience. Because an early delivery creates risks for the baby, it’s important for moms to focus less on the delivery event and more on what they want for their child.
Most moms want a healthy baby that’s able to eat and breathe on its own. They want their child to have a healthy life, to be able to see and hear, to learn and solve problems as they grow, and to be able to get along with others.
The advice list to accomplish this is pretty brief:
• Take a prenatal vitamin every day;
• Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or abuse drugs;
• Eat healthy;
• Be physically active;
• Get enough sleep;
• Keep your doctor appointments, even if you’re feeling just fine; and
• Stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks.
It is during the last few weeks of a baby’s development in the womb that important growth takes place in the brain, eyes, ears, lungs and liver. A baby’s brain at 35 weeks weighs only two-thirds of what it will weigh at 39-40 weeks.
It’s also very important to remember that your due date is an estimate. It could be off by a week or two. So, if you choose to have your baby at 37 weeks and the estimated due date is actually off by two weeks, your baby will be brought into the world with an underdeveloped brain, sensory organs and glands.
Our goal is to help you have a healthy pregnancy and safely deliver a healthy child. It’s important for you to ask questions, understand what you need to do to have the best possible outcome, and prepare for what you really want — to safely deliver and then nurture a healthy child.
I will be discussing these issues in person on Friday at the hospital’s monthly Lunch & Learn program in the One West Conference Room. I hope to see you there at noon.
Kristal Burke, RN, is the obstetrics unit nurse manager at Harlan ARH Hospital