Uncertainty during pregnancy is universally experienced. Even though your baby is supposed to spend around 40 weeks in your womb, sometimes he/she may tend to come out a bit early. Preterm labor, also known as premature labor, happens when your body starts getting ready for birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy. A preterm birth may not give you a healthy baby. After birth, your baby may have to go through a tough time to regain its health.
However, preterm labor may not always lead to a preterm birth. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, only about 10% of women with preterm labor will give birth within the next 7 days. For about 30% of women, preterm labor stops on its own. Here is everything you need to know about preterm labor.
What Increases Your Risk For Preterm Labor
The reasons for preterm labor varies depending on the lifestyle and health status of a pregnant woman. Knowing the risk factors will help you avoid the circumstances that could lead to preterm labor.
Lifestyle: Smoking and drinking too much of alcohol may contribute to preterm labor. Using illegal drugs is another factor. A few studies have pointed out that excessive caffeine intake may also accelerate premature labor.
Prenatal care: If you don’t receive proper prenatal care, your health will be deteriorated, leading to preterm labor. Domestic violence in the form of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can put you under stress, causing preterm labor. Too much stress at work or lack of social support may also affect you.
Medical factors: Urinary tract infection, vaginal infection, sexually transmitted infection, and kidney/bladder infection are risk factors associated with preterm labor. Underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, blood clotting disorders, kidney disease, or diabetes could also increase your chance of early labor.
Medical history: If you had a previous premature birth, you are at greatest risk for premature labor. Any uterine or cervical abnormality also contribute to preterm labor. Multiple pregnancies and being pregnant with a single fetus after in vitro fertilization (IVF) are other factors. Short intervals between pregnancies is again a risk factor.
What To Do
Even though the reasons for preterm labor vary, the delivery could be delayed if you take care of a few things. Take these steps to prevent premature labor:
- Lie down tilted towards your left side. This position is found to be effective in slowing down symptoms.
- Never lie flat on your back as it increases contractions.
- Make sure that you empty your bladder.
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is known to engender contractions.
However, if you experience symptoms of premature labor for more than an hour, call your healthcare provider as soon as possible. The doctor will have to check your cervix to make sure that you are in labor. If the cervix is opening, it is a clear sign of preterm labor. Your doctor will provide you medications such as IV fluids and antibiotics to delay the delivery. If your preterm labor continues, your doctor will make a decision, which is best for you and your baby.
Know These Signs Of Preterm Labor
To know that you are experiencing preterm labor, you should be aware of warning signs and symptoms of preterm labor.
- Fluid leaking from the vagina.
- Vaginal bleeding
- Frequent uterine contractions in an hour. Five or more contractions are not a good sign. Writing down contractions will be a good idea. You may feel your abdomen hardening during a contraction.
- Persistent menstrual-like cramps in the lower abdomen.
- Severe pressure in your pelvis area or vagina.
- Backache that may come and go or be constant. You experience the pain in your lower back.
- Sometimes you may experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
It is true that many of these pains are common during pregnancy. But, as you enter the second trimester, do not hesitate to call your doctor if you notice anything unusual or uncomfortable.