Photo Credit: Photodisc/Digital Vision/Getty Images
She's the baby who beat the odds: Last November, German preemie Frieda Mangold was born after spending just 21 weeks and 5 days in mom Yvonne Mangold's womb. She weighed just 1 pound, and tied the previous world record for the youngest surviving preemie set by Canadian baby James Elgin Gill. But over Easter weekend, the baby doctors are calling a "medical miracle" finally got to go home.
The odds were against Frieda. Babies aren’t typically considered “viable” -- able to survive outside the womb -- before 23 weeks or so. That’s because the lungs don’t develop the ability to breathe air until about 21 or 22 weeks after fertilization -- and even then, the lungs are extremely immature. Babies like Frieda need specialized help to breathe, eat and regulate their temperature, and sadly, few survive. (In fact, doctors were unable to save Frieda's twin brother, Kilian, who died of complications six weeks after his premature birth.) Those that do may suffer chronic medical problems throughout their lives -- but Frieda’s physician told the Daily Mail that there is “no indication that she will not be healthy.”
Preterm labor is on the rise: One out of eight babies is now born before 37 weeks -- an increase of 27% over the last decade. And while modern medicine can do many things, the sad truth is that preterm birth is the leading cause of infant death and disability.
No doubt about it, baby Frieda is a miracle. And we're thrilled for her family that she's home now. Still, the best bet for a healthy babe is a healthy, full-term pregnancy. So what can you do to decrease your risk of pre-term labor?
Know the signs and symptoms of preterm labor. If you experience a low, dull backache, begin leaking fluid or blood from your vagina or feel regular contractions or cramping at any point in your pregnancy, call your healthcare provider right away and tell her you’re concerned about preterm labor, especially if you’re at high-risk. Medication may be needed to stop your labor.
Take care of yourself. Getting regular prenatal care, eating a healthy diet and refraining from smoking and illegal drug use can also increase your chances of a healthy, full-term pregnancy. If you’ve previously had a pre-term labor, your doctor may order progesterone, a hormone, to decrease the odds of pre-term birth.