• Prematurity Awareness Month: Mayo Clinic Expert Explains Risk Factors

LA CROSSE, Wis. — Roughly 1 in 10 U.S. babies is born prematurely. Preterm labor can affect any pregnancy. To help highlight National Prematurity Awareness Month, Dennis Costakos, M.D., a neonatologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, explains some of the factors behind premature births.

A child is considered premature when born before 37 weeks of gestation. Women who have had children prematurely are at the highest risk of having another baby early, says Dr. Costakos, who has worked in the Mayo Clinic Health System Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 23 years.

"One-third of the time, a preterm birth is due to infection, such as membranes rupturing. Another third of the time, it is due to a medical condition such as preeclampsia, or high blood pressure," Dr. Costakos says. "The other third of the time, we are not sure why a preterm birth occurs."

Factors that can raise the risk of preterm labor also include:

"To lower the risk of having a preterm pregnancy, it is important for women to seek prenatal care. Also, they should not use tobacco, and should stay off of their feet as much as possible. A pregnant woman shouldn't be on her feet for more than 10 hours a day," Dr. Costakos says.

Media Contact: Rick Thiesse 608-392-9435 Email: thiesse.rick@mayo.edu

Sharon Theimer, 507-284-5005 (days), newsbureau@mayo.edu

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