Preterm Labor

About preterm labor:
Preterm labor starts before  37 weeks.  About one tenth of the babies born in the U.S. are preterm.  About 3/4 of newborns that die, not counting birth defects, are caused by preterm births.  Preterm babies may have problems with their eyes, ears, breathing, nervous system, or behavior problems. Babies earlier than 32 weeks are at highest risk.
The exact causes of preterm labor are not always known; it can be caused by maternal or fetal hormone changes, or there may be an infection of the amniotic fluid or of the uterus.

Signs of preterm labor that should be reported to your doctor to evaluate are :

  • constant, low dull backache
  • abdominal cramps, regular or frequent contractions, that can be painless
  • your water breaks
  • bleeding

Monitoring the baby in our office can help the doctor know if the contractions you are having are normal Braxton Hicks (false labor) or could be preterm labor;  the doctor will check your cervix to see it it is changing.  If you are having more than 6 contractions in one hour that do not stop despite rest and increased fluid, call the office or answering service, or go to the hospital to be monitored.

 Risks for preterm labor are

  • previous preterm labor during this or an earlier pregnancy
  • you have twins or triplets now in utero
  • you have had one or more second trimester abortions
  • you have an abnormal cervix or uterus
  • you have had abdominal surgery during this pregnancy or a serious infection during this pregnancy
  • you have had bleeding in the the second or third trimester
  • you smoke or use cocaine or methamphetamine

If you have preterm labor, you doctor may try to stop the labor depending on the cause.  Usually bed rest and fluid hydration can stop preterm labor, but medications, oral or injectable may be necessary.  Pelvic rest (no sex) is usually advised. You may be taken off work, or hospitalized for a period to control prevent preterm delivery.