A normal pregnancy lasts for 37-42 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period. Preterm labor is labor that starts before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Going into labor and delivering before 37 weeks can be dangerous as preterm babies can have serious health problems.
- 12% of babies are born pre-term (before 37 weeks).
- 80% of these are due to labor caused by premature rupture of membranes.
- The other 20% are deliveries done at the recommendation of the doctor because of maternal or fetal problems that prevent the pregnancy from continuing safely.
- Women with a previous preterm delivery
- Women with a multiple gestation
- Women with problems of the uterus and cervix
- Infection in the uterus or another part of the body (kidney infection, the flu)
- Use of illegal drugs such as cocaine
- Poor diet and being under weight
- Surgery during the pregnancy
The symptoms of preterm labor are the same as with normal labor:
- Low back pain or/ and painful contractions
- Change in the vaginal discharge
- Leakage of fluid from the vagina
When should you call your doctor?
You should call your doctor if:
- You have more than 6 contractions in 1 hour (10 minutes apart)
- Vaginal bleeding
- Leakage of fluid or “broken water”
How is Preterm Labor Treated?
Treatment might depend on :
- What is causing the preterm labor
- How far along you are in the pregnancy
- Medical problems with you or your baby
Your doctor may give you medicine to try to slow down or stop your preterm labor.
If you are less than 34 weeks pregnant, you may be given steroid shots to try to accelerate your baby’s lung maturity in the event the baby is born early.
Medicines used to stop preterm labor do not always work. If you end up giving birth early, DeKalb Medical Center has one of the best Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) in the state of Georgia.
Does Preterm labor mean that you will always deliver early?
Not all women who have preterm labor will delivery before 37 weeks.
Can Preterm Labor be Prevented?
There is no way to prevent preterm labor most of the time. If you have had a preterm birth before, you may be a candidate for progesterone therapy, which has been shown to decrease the risk of recurrent preterm birth.
The NICU staff is there to evaluate and start more intensive treatment on infants with problems.