Preterm labor occurs when contractions begin to open the cervix before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Generally, a full term pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. Baby will be born early if preterm labor is not stopped. Health risk is high in the case of premature babies. Premature babies seek special care in the neonatal intensive care unit. They may have long-term mental and physical disabilities. It is also a risky factor to give birth to a premature child. The main cause for preterm birth is not clear. Studies have found that, it is certain other risk factors that increase the risk of preterm labor. You should make sure that you are not at risk. If you are at risk, you should take preventive measures to decrease the risk.
In some women,the signs and symptoms will be negligible. But, in some others they are visible. The common signs and symptoms are:
- Regular or frequent contractions.
- Constant dull, low back pain
- Mild abdominal cramps
- Vaginal spotting or bleeding
- A change in the vaginal discharge and
- Watery vaginal discharge in a gush or trickle.
When you feel you have most of the symptoms, especially vaginal bleeding along with abdominal cramps or pain, it is important to consult your doctor.
Factors that increase the risk of preterm labor include:
- Pregnancy twins, triplets or other multiples
- Problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta
- Infections like genital tract
- Chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes
- Stressful life events
- Multiple miscarriages
- Being anemic especially during early pregnancy
- Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
Some research have found a link between gum disease and premature birth. You will be referred to a specialist if you are at risk of preterm labor or premature birth. Treatment can make your delivery at or near term. Preterm delivery may give premature child. Premature baby will have so many health issues such as low birth rate, breathing difficulties, vision problems, underdeveloped organs, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.
In order to diagnose preterm labor, it is important to have tests and procedures. The main tests and methods to find out preterm labor include lab tests, ultrasound, fetal monitoring, uterine monitoring, pelvic exam, and maturity amniocentesis. After diagnosing, if you are found to having preterm labor, the doctor will explain you the treatments and medications that you have to take and the possible risks in the future. Some women with preterm labor will be hospitalized in some cases. Whereas in other cases, some may need a surgical procedure called cervical cerclage, which can prevent premature birth. Some medications include corticosteroids, tocolytics etc are used to prevent preterm labor temporarily.
Anyhow, preventing preterm labor is not possible. It is necessary to take good care of yourself and have regular check-ups and doctor visits.