Nov 12, 2011

Premature Labor

Due to serious injuries I sustained in a car accident 4 years ago, I will be having a scheduled C-Section. It would be very dangerous for me and the baby if I were to have a natural child birth. I have done quite a bit of research on premature labor so I will know the warning signs and take the necessary precautions.  I thought I would share my information. Below is a very comprehensive explanation and symptom overview of Premature Labor. (Most all has been copied from my friends at the American Pregnancy Association,  At the bottom of this post you will find links to all of the information used.)

What is premature labor?
A normal pregnancy should last about 40 weeks. Occasionally, labor may begin prematurely before the 37th week of pregnancy because uterine contractions cause the cervix to open earlier than normal. When this happens, the baby is born premature and can be at risk for health problems. Fortunately, due to research, technology and medicine, the health of premature babies is improving.

What risk factors create a high risk for premature labor?

NOTE: Having a specific risk factor does not mean you are predetermined to have premature labor. A woman may have premature labor for no apparent reason. If you have any of these risk factors, it's important to know the symptoms of premature labor and what you should do if they occur.
  • Women are at greatest risk for premature labor if:
    • They are pregnant with multiples
    • They have had a previous premature birth
    • They have certain uterine or cervical abnormalities
  • Medical risk factors include:
    • Recurring bladder and/or kidney infections
    • Urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, and sexually transmitted infections
    • Infection with fever (greater than 101 degrees F) during pregnancy
    • Unexplained vaginal bleeding after 20 weeks of pregnancy
    • Chronic illness such as high blood pressure, kidney disease or diabetes
    • Multiple first trimester abortions or one or more second trimester abortions
    • Underweight or overweight before pregnancy
    • Clotting Disorder (thrombophilia)
    • Being Pregnant with a single fetus after in vitro fertilization (IVF)
    • Short time between pregnancies (less than 6-9 months between birth and beginning of the next pregnancy)
  • Lifestyle risks for premature labor include:
    • Little or no prenatal care
    • Smoking
    • Drinking alcohol
    • Using illegal drugs
    • Domestic violence, including physical, sexual or emotional abuse
    • Lack of social support
    • High levels of stress
    • Low income
    • Long working hours with long periods of standing
  • NOTE: I felt compeled to post this because they are factors, but I don't want it to freak you out.  Low income, long hours, bad relationships, lack of social support are all factors that may be not only be difficult to control, but necessary evils.  Just do your best to relax and and find peace and calm in these situations...

What are warning signs of premature labor?

  • A contraction every 10 minutes, or more frequently within one hour (five or more uterine contractions in an hour)
  • Watery fluid leaking from your vagina (this could indicate that your bag of water is broken)
  • Menstrual-like cramps felt in the lower abdomen that may come and go or be constant
  • Low, dull backache felt below the waistline that may come and go or be constant
  • Pelvic pressure that feels like your baby is pushing down
  • Abdominal cramps that may occur with or without diarrhea
  • Increase or change in vaginal discharge

What does a contraction feel like?

As the muscles of your uterus contract, you will feel your abdomen harden. As the contraction goes away, your uterus becomes soft. Throughout pregnancy, the layers of your uterus will tighten irregularly which are usually not painful. These are known as Braxton-Hicks contractions and are usually irregular and do not open the cervix. If these contractions become regular or more frequent (one every 10-12 minutes for at least an hour) they may be premature labor contractions which can cause the cervix to open. It is important to contact your health care provider immediately.

How can I check for contractions?

While lying down, use your fingertips to feel your uterus tighten and soften. This is called “palpation.” During a contraction your abdomen will feel hard all over, not just in one area. However, as your baby grows you may feel your abdomen become firmer in one area and then become soft again.

What should I do if I think I am experiencing premature labor?

If you suspect you are having signs and symptoms of premature labor call your health care provider immediately. This can be a scary time for you but there are some ways you can help to prevent premature labor by becoming aware of the symptoms and following these directions:
  • Empty your bladder
  • Lie down tilted towards your left side; this may slow down or stop signs and symptoms
  • Avoid lying flat on your back; this may cause the contractions to increase
  • Drink several glasses of water because dehydration can cause contractions
  • Monitor contractions for one hour by counting the minutes that elapse from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next
If symptoms get worse, or don't go away after one hour, call your health care provider again or go to the hospital. When you call your health care provider, be sure to mention that you are worried about premature labor. The only sure way to know if you are in premature labor is by examination of your cervix. If your cervix is opening up, premature labor could be starting.

What impact does premature labor have on my pregnancy?

The longer your baby is in the womb, the better the chance he or she will be healthy. Babies who are born prematurely are at higher risks for brain and other neurological complications, as well as breathing and digestive problems. Some premature babies grow up with a developmental delay, and/or have learning difficulties in school. The earlier in pregnancy a baby is born, the more health problems are likely to develop.
Premature labor does not always result in premature delivery. Some women with premature labor and early dilation of the cervix are sometimes put on bed rest until the pregnancy progresses further.

Oddly enough, I complain and carry on about my pregnancy, but truth be told I want to carry my baby to last possible day.  Premature delivery is not the end of the world and so many beautiful healthy babies come into the world this way.  It is still a medical fact that the longer the baby can stay in the womb, the better.  I plan to do everything I can to ensure this little boys continues to kick the crap out of me from within as long as possible!
Compiled using information from the following sources:
William’s Obstetrics Twenty-Second Ed. Cunningham, F. Gary, et al, Ch. 36.

Two confused parents=One amused baby Hopelessly we are trying raise a baby who is clearly smarter than both of us. April is an award-winning writer and blogger. Her work has been published in over ten countries and four languages. From books to newspapers, to print/online magazines and everything in between, you can find her work. For more on April, Visit