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Preterm Labor

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Preterm Labor is when uterine contractions occur before the medically expected time and can lead to premature birth and can be very dangerous for the baby. The earlier the premature birth occurs, the riskier it is for the baby because the baby’s organs might be underdeveloped to sustain in the outside environment on their own.

Preterm Labor is premature labor that occurs at 20 to 37 weeks of pregnancy or otherwise known as a gestation period. The uterine contractions in Preterm Labor are sufficient enough in intensity and frequency to cause premature birth.

Preterm Labor is the cause of almost half of preterm births, causing an increase in newborns’ mortality rate. Thanks to medical advancements, there are methods to extend the labor and get childbirth closer to the due date. The longer the baby gets inside the uterus, the better its body will develop, reducing the risk of diseases after birth.

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What are the Causes of Preterm Labor?

There can be various reasons that may cause Preterm Labor. Following are a few of the common causes:

  • ● High blood pressure during the last trimester of pregnancy
  • ● Premature breakage of the membrane
  • ● Bleeding during pregnancy
  • ● Weak cervix
  • ● Unknown cause
  • ● Other causes

What are the Symptoms of Preterm Labor?

If you see any of these signs during your pregnancy, call your gynecologist. Some of the symptoms include:

  • ● A constant dull ache in your lower back
  • ● Increased frequency of uterine contractions or feeling of tightness in the belly
  • ● Mild cramps in the abdomen
  • ● A sensation of pressure in your lower abdomen or pelvis
  • ● Continuous leakage of fluid due to premature breakage in the membrane surrounding the baby
  • ● Vaginal spotting, occasional slight bleeding
  • ● A watery, mucus-like, or bloody discharge from the vagina

How is Preterm Labor Diagnosed?

Your doctor will make a note of all your recent signs and symptoms. They will also evaluate the risk factors. If you notice any softening or dilation of your cervix before 37 weeks of pregnancy, you should inform your doctor.

  • ● Your doctor might perform the following tests and procedures to determine if you have Preterm Labor
  • ● Your doctor will do a detailed physical examination to determine the size and position of your baby. He/she will also evaluate the thickness and firmness of your uterus by palpation. Your gynecologist will also check if your water is broken or intact, inspect and measure the cervical dilation, and if you have any uterine bleeding.
  • ● May recommend an intravaginal ultrasound to check the health of the baby and to measure cervical dilation.
  • Your doctor might also give you a uterine monitor so that you can keep track of the intensity and the frequency of uterine contractions.
  • ● Your doctor might recommend a vaginal swab test to check the presence of any infections and fetal fibronectins. It is the substance that glues the uterus to the placenta and discharges during labor.

How is Preterm Labor Treated?

The treatments for Preterm Labor are always temporary, may it be medications or surgery. The doctor may recommend certain medications such as corticosteroids, magnesium sulfate, and tocolytics.

Usually, the doctor suggests getting hospitalized during the last part of your pregnancy. But, if you are at home, you might need to visit your doctor weekly or more frequently to monitor any signs and symptoms of preterm labor closely.

If you are less than 24 months pregnant and have a history of Preterm Labor, your doctor might suggest cervical cerclage; a surgical procedure if the cervical length is less than 25 mm.

What is the Results of Preterm Labor Treatment?

The treatment options available in modern medicine often give a good result. One cannot be sure, though. It is essential to keep in mind that the result is subjective to different factors like the time and frequency of Preterm Labor, comorbidities associated, or complications in the pregnancy. Age plays an important role too. Too old or too young age for childbearing can lower the right treatment chances and affect the newborn.

What are the Risks Associated with Preterm Labor treatments?

Surgery to treat Preterm Labor can be risky because of a lack of coordination in the body to give normal labor.

If you have Preterm Labor, your body produces labor hormones sooner than needed and means that the baby might still be developing for birth. The most significant risk of this surgery is adverse effects on the health of the baby.

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What are the Factors that Might Increase the Probability of Preterm Labor?

Many factors increase the risk of developing Preterm Labor, like if you are overweight or underweight during your pregnancy, severe or constant stress, history or current use of smoking tobacco, or illicit drug use are some that you can avoid.

Is an Excessive Collection of Fluid Around the Baby Concerning?

Yes, this can cause preterm labor as the fluid may exert pressure on the fetus. The risk increases if you have had multiple deliveries before this or have a history of Preterm Labor.

Why is Preterm Labor Damaging for the Baby?

Preterm Labor can cause premature birth, causing several complications for the baby, like low birth weight, behavioral problems, breathing difficulties, cerebral palsy, underdeveloped organs, etc. It can sometimes even cause learning disabilities and vision problems.

How can I Prevent Preterm Labor?

There is not much to prevent this; however, you can eat healthy food, especially rich in PUFA, plan your next pregnancy carefully with your gynecologist, and make sure to visit your doctor at regular intervals. Follow some tips to maintain a healthy gestation. If you already have systemic conditions and metabolic disorders like diabetes, hypertension, or even obesity, you should manage them to avoid Preterm Labor.

Is it Safe to Consider Medical Assistance for Pregnancy with a History of Preterm Labor?

If you are trying to get pregnant with assisted reproductive technology (ART), take care of the number of embryos getting implanted. The more the number, the higher the risk. Therefore, you must discuss your history of Preterm Labor with your gynecologist thoroughly.


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