Premature or preterm labour arises when a pregnant woman's body starts preparing for delivery way before the due date. Preterm labor can, in most cases , lead to an early birth if not controlled with the help of medical intervention. Typically, preterm labour starts three weeks before a woman's due date. Fortuntely, the delivery of the child can be delayed by adopting treatment methids for preterm labor. Only two types of methods are commonly used. One of them is a surgical procedure known as cervical cerclage and the other is the administration of certain medications in the form of injections or IV fluids. In case these treatment options fail to work, the doctor will suggest giving birth to the baby, which can be done vaginally or through a Cesaerean section , depending on the condition of the mother. Although it's popular belief that bed rest can help in controlling the symptoms of preterm labor, it really cannot and most doctors advise against it due to the potential risks it comes with.
If the symptoms of preterm labour are mild, doctors will recommend the use of medications first. Three different types of medications are generally used and these are corticosteroids, magnesium sulfate and tocolytes. Corticosteroids are given when the woman is between 24 to 34 weeks pregnant and is administered via an injection. These help in slowing down the lung development of the baby. Magnesium sulphate is offered as treatment when ther's high risk of delivering the baby betweenb 24 and 32 weeks of gestation. It is administered intravenously. Lastly, tocolytes are given for short-term relief and help in delaying the delivery for up to two days. These are administered intravenously too. It should be mentioned here that each of these methods are carried out in a hospital. Apart from drugs, a surgery known as cervical cerclage is performed to halt delivery. This surgery can be performed either with the help of local or general anesthesia. Generally, the operation is carried out through the vagina. In this procedure, a speculum is inserted into the woman's vagina so that the vaginal walls can be spread apart for the surgery. To close the cervix in order to stop preterm labour symptoms, the surgeon may either stitch the outer part of the cervix or tie a tape around the cervix and then stitch it up. The surgeon may also make a tiny incision in the cervix and then tie a tape there to keep it closed.
Pregnant women who are suffering from the symptoms of preterm labour are eligible for these treatment methods. They will have to be at least 24 weeks pregnant for the medications to work. Women who are less than 24 weeks are pregnant are eligible for the surgery.
Pregnant women who are suffering from complications are not eligible for any of these treatment methods. Moreover, pregnant women who are beyond 24 weeks pregnant are not the right candidates for surgery. Also women who are a couple of weeks before their due date may not be eligible for either surgery or medications.
Side effects are a common occurrence in the use of medications to curb the symptoms of preterm labour. These side effects include nausea, dry mouth, headache, blurry vision, flushing, weakness, heartburn, veritgo, palpitations, nervousness, fever and feeling warm. Cervical cerclage has side effects too, which are contractions, cramping, vaginal bleeding, low back or abdominal pain, fever, nausea, foul odored vaginal discharge and more.
For medicines used to treat preterm labour, post-treatment guidelines include following a healthy diet, resting and immediately reporting any side effects that take place to the doctor. As for surgery, women may have to stay in the hospital overnight or for at least a couple of hours. Once discharged, they will have to routinely have the medicines prescribed and take bed rest for at least 2-3 days after the procedure. Abstinence from sex is also important. The doctor will inform the woman when she can resume normal activities.
The recovery time of cervical cerclage is not fixed and is entirely dependent on the way in which the procedure was carried out. As far as the medications, the side effects may take a couple of days to wear off so that the woman can recover.
Cercival cerclafe is carried out in most hospitals in India and the cost of it ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 13,000. The medications used to treat preterm labour cost between Rs 200 to Rs 4870.
The results of each of these treatment methods cannot be defined as permanent per se. Their success depends on if the pregnancy lasts up to or at least close to the full term.
Bed rest is generally recommended as the best alternative to medical intervention for preterm labor. However, most medical experts do not advocate it now due to potential side effects.