Are you worried about giving birth early? Get all the info you need to know about the signs of preterm labor and how to avoid it.
What is preterm labor?
Preterm labor is when you go into labor before the 37th week of pregnancy. This is scary because baby may come out when he’s not fully ready and developed.
What are the signs of preterm labor?
Some of the signs to look out for if you think you're in preterm labor include vaginal discharge, leaking of amniotic fluid, vaginal bleeding or spotting, and pressure in the pelvis (or feeling like the baby is suddenly pushing down), as well as tightening, contractions or abdominal pain that’s occurring regularly. Other symptoms include a low, dull backache and diarrhea. So if something doesn’t feel right (regardless of whether you can pinpoint it), you may want to contact your doctor just to be on the safe side. Another thing: Make sure that you’re not confusing preterm labor with Braxton Hicks contractions, which occur irregularly and infrequently during your pregnancy and are your body’s way of preparing for labor.
Are there any tests for preterm labor?
Your doctor can tell if you’re having preterm labor by observing changes in your cervix and monitoring your contractions. Some tests your doctor may use are a uterine monitor (to measure contractions), a fetal heart rate monitor (to record baby’s heartbeat), an ultrasound (to measure the length of your cervix) and a check for fetal fibronectin (a substance that binds the fetal sac and the uterus lining -- your doctor will test swabs of your vaginal discharge).
How common is preterm labor?
According to the March of Dimes, preterm birth occurs in 12 percent of all pregnancies.
How did I get preterm labor?
Common risk factors for preterm labor include a previous preterm labor; pregnancy with multiples; problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta; smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol; amniotic fluid infections or lower genital tract infections; high blood pressure; diabetes; being underweight or overweight before pregnancy; gaining too little or too much weight during pregnancy; stress; multiple miscarriages; and anemia. It’s important to note that even if you don’t have those risk factors, you may still go through preterm labor.
How will preterm labor affect my baby?
Your baby may be born too soon. If baby is born premature, he may have a low birth weight, difficulty breathing, underdeveloped organs and infections. Premature babies may also be at a higher risk of having learning disorders and developmental and behavioral problems.
What’s the best way to treat preterm labor?
If your doctor finds you’re having preterm labor, he might order you on bed rest. Lying down on your left side to help circulation to your uterus may stop labor. If you’re admitted to the hospital, your doctor may also give you medication to stop the contractions.