What are the warning signs of preterm labor?
When regular contractions occur between 20 and 37 weeks into pregnancy that cause the cervix to open in preparation for birth, the result is preterm labor. Preterm labor does not always result in preterm birth and doctors will do whatever they can to stop or slow down labor before 37 weeks, which is considered full-term.
Signs of preterm labor can include:
- Frequent or regular feelings of abdominal sensations, known as cramping.
- Constant feeling of a low, dull pain in the back.
- Feeling of pressure on the pelvis or lower abdomen.
- Mild cramps in the abdomen.
- Light bleeding or spotting.
- A watery, bloody or mucus-like vaginal discharge.
- Rupture of the membranes, either as a continuous trickle or a gush due to a break or tear of the membrane surrounding the baby.
If you experience any of these symptoms and feel that you are concerned you may be experiencing preterm labor, contact your doctor or midwife right away for directions on what you should do. They may want you to get checked out to determine if you are in fact experiencing preterm labor or if it is just a false alarm.
Why does preterm birth happen?
Preterm birth can happen for many known reasons as there are certain risks that can increase the likelihood of a women going into preterm labor. However, there are also cases of women who experience preterm labor who don’t exhibit any of the risk factors associated with it. Any pregnancy can experience preterm labor and consequently preterm birth, however some factors can increase the risk, such as:
- Preterm labor or premature birth in a previous pregnancy, especially if it was the last pregnancy or has occurred in more than one pregnancy.
- Women who are pregnant with multiple babies, including twins.
- Physical conditions such as a shortened cervix or a problem with the placenta or uterus.
- Cigarette smoking or the use of illicit drugs during pregnancy.
- Stressful or traumatic life events.
- Chronic medical conditions such as depression, autoimmune disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Many other factors related to the pregnant woman or the fetus.
If you are worried about your likelihood of experiencing preterm labor, talk to your doctor about your concerns. They can help you to understand the risk factors that can cause preterm labor and how you can lower your risk.
What is the difference between preterm and premature birth?
Preterm and premature birth refer to the same basic principle – when a baby is born before the 37th or 38th week of pregnancy, depending on who you ask. The difference is that premature and preterm are typically used to reference different aspects of a baby born early. Pregnancy in humans has a gestational period of 40 week, with 37 weeks being the common marker for when a baby has fully developed all of their internal organs necessary for their body to function properly. Babies born before that are considered to be premature babies, born through the process of a preterm birth, which is where the difference lies between preterm and premature. Premature babies can be classified in different levels of prematurity, dependent on how early they were born. These classifications are extremely premature for babies born between 25 and 28 weeks or any point before 25 weeks, very premature for babies born before 32 weeks and moderate to late premature in the case of babies born between 32 and 37 weeks. At each level there are different risks and complications associated with babies being born that early, including the likelihood of survival.
Where and when does preterm birth happen?
Preterm birth refers to the premature birth of a baby at any point before the mother reaches 37 weeks of her pregnancy. Preterm birth can cause serious health complications for the baby, depending at what point they are born and how premature they are. Babies who are born prematurely will need to be closely monitored in the hospital, often for extended periods of time to ensure that their organs and bodies continue to grow and develop as they would have in the womb. Women who feel like they may be experiencing preterm labor need to contact their primary provider for their pregnancy care immediately for direction on how to proceed. If there is a chance that she is in fact experiencing preterm labor, the mother will need to get to a hospital for monitoring and the availability of immediate medical care of the baby should she be experiencing preterm labor that progresses to a preterm birth.
If you want more information or have questions about preterm birth, then we encourage you to contact our team of leading healthcare professionals at Kidswood Pediatrics through our website. We serve patients from Winter Park FL, Goldenrod FL, Lockhart FL, Maitland FL, Apopka FL, Casselberry FL and Oviedo, FL.