Preterm labour: All you need to know

premature birth

Preterm labour: All you need to know

What is premature birth? Premature birth is when the baby arrives before the pregnancy completes 37 weeks. Generally the later the baby arrives, the more are its chances of doing well, as it is better developed to survive in the outside world.

What is preterm labour?

A baby born at 35 weeks may not have any problems other than being very small and have breathing difficulties. If a baby is born between 28 and 34 weeks, there is still a lot of growing left to do, and their internal organs need to mature. They cannot suck well and have breathing difficulties, which is why they are kept at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Baby born at 28 weeks also has a fair chance at survival at good healthcare facilities. Unfortunately, if a baby is born before 28 weeks, it has very slim chances of survival and those who do, may face a chance of mild to severe disabilities.

Reasons for premature delivery

Reasons for Premature birth: There is no specific reasons behind premature birth, but there are number of risk factors that you should be aware of that increase the chances of premature birth.

Medical reasons for a premature birth:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Expecting twins or more
  • Abnormality in uterus
  • History of miscarriage especially between 16 and 24 weeks.
  • History of pregnancy terminations
  • Weak cervix
  • History of premature birth

Social factors for a premature birth:

  • Inadequate resources due to poverty
  • History of domestic violence
  • Smoking and taking drugs
  • High stress levels in lifestyle – work and home.

There can be chances of a premature birth in case the doctor feels that the baby is not growing properly in the uterus or has an abnormality. In such a case, the doctor may induce labor or perform a C section. There are certain special conditions of the mother due to which it might be necessary to have a premature birth, such as:

  • Medical condition of the mother which does not allow the pregnancy to sustain longer than a certain period
  • Chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, severe anemia.
  • Trauma to the abdomen, such as a severe blow.
  • Pre-eclampsia.

Signs of preterm labour

To be able to stop premature labor, you will need to first know warning signs. Taking quick action could make a huge difference. Call your doctor immediately if you are experiencing:

  • A dull backache, mostly in your lower back. It could either be constant or sporadic, but it won’t offer you much comfort even if you were to change positions or apply hot compresses.
  • Contractions which are persistent and come every 10 minutes or so.
  • Pain/cramping in your lower abdomen which are menstrual-like cramps. These could also accompany diarrhea.
  • Fluid leaking from the vagina, which could indicate water breakage
  • Flu-like symptoms while include nausea, throwing up or diarrhea. Call your doctor if you are unable to keep liquids down.
  • Increasing pressure and/or discomfort in your pelvis area
  • Increased amounts of vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding of any kind whether it is light or heavy.

What to do if you get into preterm labour

If your waters break or you start having contractions before 37 weeks of pregnancy, contact your doctor immediately, regardless of time. Once you reach the hospital, the doctors will check you for any infections, and carry out some tests for the same. Your doctor will also do a vaginal examination to check the status of the cervix. Once the labor starts, the doctors cannot be stop it. However, it may be possible to delay the birth a bit with the use of drugs. But nothing can be done if the labor has already started.

Because a baby cannot breathe properly till 36 weeks, you will be given a steroid drugs to help the baby’s lungs mature.

What happens if I have a premature delivery?

You will likely be worried to find out that you have gone into labor prematurely, and that’s very natural. In such a case, talk to your doctor if she can offer you an explanation (provided that explanation is going to put you at ease, and not scare you). The doctor will monitor your baby’s heartbeat and if everything is going on well, despite the premature labor, you will be able to deliver vaginally. The baby will be small but it will become stronger after some neonatal intensive care. However, if the doctor finds that the baby is in distress, she may have to perform a Caesarean section.

After the baby is born, it will be whisked away to the NICU and that can be frightening. Talk to your doctor or the pediatrician about the baby and request them to keep you updated. If you are not up to receiving probing questions from relatives, then ask your doctor to step in. You can also politely ask your relatives to stay away and visit you only after both of you have recovered.

Reasons for premature birth

If you have had a premature birth the first time, it is likely that you will deliver prematurely again. Currently there is no way for a doctor to predict the possibility of a premature birth from the start. However, with the help of close monitoring, a doctor will take precautions to avoid a premature birth by putting in a cervical stitch to close the cervix and prevent a premature birth.

At your end, giving up recreational drugs and smoking can definitely reduce the risk of a premature birth. In any case, the second time around, be prepared for a premature birth so that it doesn’t come as an unpleasant shock.

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