Delivering anytime before your 37th week of gestation is considered a premature birth. Obstetrician Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz explains that premature babies carry with them a host of health concerns, but thanks to modern medicine the prognosis is typically very good for these early arrivers. Survival rates are high for babies born after 32 weeks, but these rates fall dramatically for micro preemies. Amanda Knickerbocker explains that micro preemies usually weigh less than 1,000 grams. Babies born early may need immediate and extended care. That’s why it’s vitally important to know some of the risk factors that make you more prone to pre-term labor, and to recognize the signs of labor so that you can seek help right away.
Risk that make increase your chance of going into early labor include:
- Prior early delivery
- Being pregnant with twins or multiples (women pregnant with multiples are up to six times more likely to go into early labor than those carrying a single baby)
- More than one previous abortion
- Short period (less than 9 months) between this pregnancy and the last one
- Smoking while pregnant
- Alcohol and drug use during pregnancy
Other factors, like standing too long at work or having a chronic illness, can contribute to your risk of going into pre-term labor. Studies have also shown that women who are in abusive relationships, lack social support, and/or do not seek out sufficient prenatal care have a higher risk of delivering prematurely.
Signs of Labor
Pay attention to your body and know the signs of labor. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor or go to the hospital.
- Contractions within 10 minutes of each other, with increasing frequency
- Abdominal cramping
- Spotting or bleeding
- Low, constant ache in lower back
- Change in vaginal discharge, or appearance of watery discharge
Don’t hesitate to contact your health care provider if you think you may be going into labor, even if you’re not sure. It’s better to go in for a false alarm than to miss out on vital care if it is the real thing. There are things your doctor can do that may stave off labor and afford your baby more time in the womb, but it’s crucial that you receive this care as early in the labor process as possible.
Pre-term labor can be stopped in many cases. You may be given medications, placed on bed rest, and have to take other precautions to keep your body from going into labor. When labor is imminent, doctors may administer a corticosteroid to speed up the development of baby’s lungs and brain, greatly increasing their chances for survival.