When an expecting mother experiences uterine contractions and is getting ready to deliver the baby at 39 to 40 weeks, it is termed as a full-term labor. But due to several factors that can be caused by lifestyle or medical condition, the onset of labor might occur before 37 weeks of pregnancy which is termed as a preterm labor and could lead to an early birth which is not the best possible scenario for the baby. Hence, it is important to understand the factors contributing to the condition and take necessary precautions during pregnancy under the advice of your gynecologist.
Signs of Preterm labor
The typical signs of going into labor such as increased vaginal leak, cramps, and contractions are applicable in the case of early onset of labor as well. Along with this, lower back pain and pressure in the pelvic region might also be felt. Though these are all common during pregnancy and even may be closely related to Braxton Hicks contractions or false labor, it is better to report to your doctor immediately.
Diagnosing a preterm labor
During your routine prenatal checkups, if the doctor observes any change in the cervix or when you notify experiencing the symptoms of preterm labor, an initial pelvic exam will be carried out to check for dilation. This process will be repeated, and your contractions will be monitored. The doctor also would constantly monitor the baby’s heartbeat or rate. Further, the presence of a protein that is linked to preterm labor will be tested to take due care. Based on the findings, the doctor will decide whether you require immediate hospitalization or any other special care.
Should you be worried?
Preterm labor may not always be a cause for concern but in some cases, it may result in premature delivery of the baby. This premature birth can be harmful to both the baby and the mother. Further, if the baby is born premature, then the baby might be underweight, suffer from breathing problems as his or her organs are not adequately developed or face a high risk of infections as the immune system is not well developed. In severe cases, the baby might have long-term developmental disorders as well as behavioral issues.
Though there are definitely risks and complications associated with preterm birth, babies born after 32 weeks of pregnancy have a high rate of survival and in most cases, do not present any long-term complications as well. But it cannot be said the same for the infants born in or before 24 weeks.In such cases, doctors would try to delay the birthing as much as possible for the benefit of the baby. The best way to prevent preterm labor is to have a healthy lifestyle coupled with regular checkups during your pregnancy and act as per doctors’ advice.