The usage of “9 months” with pregnancy is almost universal. However, it is not always that all women go through the entire 9 months with the baby. Most often, delivery happens during the 37th to 40th weeks. This allows for the complete growth of the baby within the mother’s womb. When delivery happens before the 37th week, it is known as preterm delivery or premature labour. These babies may not be completely formed and may have temporary or long-term difficulties after birth.
There are many reasons which can induce premature labour, and while some are preventable, some may be inevitable.
- Smoking: One of the first things to do when planning a pregnancy or as soon as you realise you are pregnant is to quit smoking. It is way too damaging for the mother and the baby within.
- Alcohol consumption or street drug usage: These again can cause not just premature labour but also developmental abnormalities.
- Multiple pregnancy: Women pregnant with twins or multiples often have premature labour.
- Health problems: Medical conditions like hypertension, diabetes, infections, etc.
- Abnormalities: Developmental abnormalities in the newborn like Down’s syndrome, chromosomal abnormalities, etc.
- Weight: Being either obese or underweight can cause premature labour.
- Prenatal care: While preparing for pregnancy or as soon as you confirm it, ensure you put yourself in the hands of a good gynaecologist. This will ensure you (and your baby) get the required care.
- Less gap: Reduced gap between subsequent pregnancies can also induce premature labour.
Warning signs of premature labour
In some women, the doctor might be able to predict the chances of a premature labour and give enough suggestions to look out for warning signs. This will help the woman to be mentally prepared when it is time.
A low backache, which is constant and does not go with usual relief measures.
- Frequent pelvic contractions (about every 10 minutes)
- Vaginal leaking (fluid or bleeding)
- General ill-feeling with symptoms of nausea, cramps, and vomiting/diarrhoea.
- Inability to hold down fluids for a full day
- Abdominal cramps, similar to a period
- Pelvic pressure, a feeling of the baby descending down
What to do?
As mentioned earlier, if your doctor had warned you of the chances of a preterm labour, watch out for them after 35 weeks.
- With any of the above symptom, do not indulge in any activity and rest on the left side for a while.
- Drink about 2 to 3 glasses of juice or plain water.
- If the symptoms get better, continue to rest for the day.
- If they do not, call the doctor. Usually, the doctor will ask you to come to the clinic.
- In some cases, the baby might be delivered and require neonatal care for some days (to weeks) depending on development and symptoms. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a gynaecologist.