Recent studies have shown that women who deliver their first child at 37 or 38 weeks are two to three times more likely to experience preterm birth with a subsequent pregnancy. The increasing risk of preterm labor and further possible complications are propelling doctors to reasearch more on this topic. New innovations to prevent prematurity are in the process of development, in attempt to minimize preterm labor incidents, which are also the leading causes of infant mortality. Continue reading to learn more about warning signs and causes of preterm labor.
During pregnancy, you feel like you just can’t wait to see your new baby. For roughly one in ten moms, your little one actually can not wait the full term to see you. This is called Preterm Labor, and refers to labor and contractions that occur before the 37 week mark. There are multiple reasons why preterm labor might occur. Read on to learn what can cause preterm labor, warning signs to be aware of, and what doctors have to say about having a healthy baby prematurely.
What is Preterm Labor?
Preterm labor is childbirth that takes place before the fetus reaches 37 weeks old. Approximately 60% of twin pregnancies and 10% of singleton pregnancies will see a preterm labor. The category of preterm labor is broad, however, because it is used to describe women who go into labor during the 36th week as well as women who give birth during the 26th week– two very different situations.
“At 36 weeks, if you start to have contractions, most doctors won’t make a valiant effort to stop that,” says Dr. Jay Goldberg, OBGYN, MD, a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Contractions of preterm labor cause a change in the cervix, dilation, and persist even with rest and hydration. If your contractions subside with rest, a call to the doctor is not needed says Goldberg. Contractions are just one of the signs that you may be headed into an early labor.
Warning Signs of Preterm Labor
Pregnant mothers should be aware of these symptoms during the second and third trimester:
- Uterine contractions
- Uterine irritability
- Lower back pain that is persistent
- Pelvic pain that is persistent
- Vaginal fluid or blood
“If these symptoms occur you should immediately call your doctor. You will be sent to the hospital and given IV hydration and medications to help relax the uterus,” says Dr. Sheryl Ross, OBGYN, MD.
Causes of Preterm Labor
The reason behind a preterm labor is sometimes unknown. Even if you do everything right during pregnancy, you can still go into labor before your due date. In other situations, a labor might be induced by or because of infection or disease.
- Preeclampsia– high blood pressure during pregnancy that can cause seizures and organ failure
- Preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) – when the membranes, or sacs around the baby, break early
- Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) – causes poor blood flow, and therefore nutrient flow, between placenta and baby
- Infection– either caused by one of the above diseases or unrelated
Certain factors in your medical history and daily life can make you more susceptible to preterm labor. These include:
- Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
- Family history of premature births, especially if you were born preterm
- Smoking, drinking alcohol, and abusing illegal or prescription drugs
- Becoming pregnant within 18 months of giving birth
No matter what the cause of your preterm labor, the point is to get you and your baby through the birthing process safely for a healthy future.
Find out more about possible Complications for Preterm Babies after birth.
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