CINCINNATI - Take a peek at the tiny babies inside the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, and the sight will tug at your heart.
These newborns are fragile and sick. Some have breathing tubes taped to their little mouths. Others have small needles, feeding them intravenously. Some will have hearing and vision issues, as well as developmental delays. Most were born prematurely.
A new Ohio study suggests that adequate birth spacing and timing between pregnancies will help reduce the risk and consequences of premature birth.
Emily DeFranco, DO, a high-risk pregnancy specialist at the University of Cincinnati, and colleagues at The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center , studied the outcomes of nearly half a million live births in Ohio.
The team found that women who have shorter periods of time between their last delivery and their next conception were more likely to deliver their babies prematurely.
In fact, researchers found that all women with birth spacing of less than 12 months were twice as likely to have a preterm birth (under 37 weeks) as those who waited the optimal 18 months between pregnancies.
WATCH in the video player above, Dr. DeFranco explains her findings, and shows one of the newborn patients in the NICU.
“The take-home message we would like to give women from this study is that planning subsequent pregnancies is very important and choosing an optimal amount of time between babies of 18 months or more is best,” said Dr. DeFranco.
The study was supported by Cincinnati Children’s Perinatal Institute and the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative.
To increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy, doctors say:
- Get healthy before conception.
- Eat nutritious foods throughout your pregnancy
- And maintain a healthy weight
You may wonder: How does a mother’s weight impact the chances of preterm birth? DeFranco and her colleagues are now researching that question.
“Specifically, we’re interested in underweight women and overweight women and how the amount of weight they gain during their pregnancy influences their risk of having an early baby in addition to their birth spacing interval,” Defranco said. Learn more about pregnancy or birth "spacing"
(Video by Mark Bowen)