If labor begins prior to 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, it is considered preterm. Preterm labor can be dangerous because if your baby is born too early, s/he could have health problems or not be developed enough to survive outside the uterus.
Warning signs of preterm labor
- Change or increase in vaginal discharge
- Ruptured membranes or “broken water” (a slow leak, steady trickle or sudden gush)
- Six or more uterine contractions in one hour in a regular pattern
- Menstrual-like cramps, a dull backache or increased pelvic pressure for more than one hour
- Throbbing in the vagina, cramps in the thighs or feeling like your baby is pushing down
- Intestinal cramping with or without diarrhea or indigestion for more than one hour
Tests and treatment for preterm labor
Your provider can tell if you have preterm labor by using a fetal monitor to check for contractions, doing a pelvic exam to check your cervix, or conducting lab tests to tell if you are at risk for delivering early. There are several treatment options to slow or stop preterm labor, and they include:
- Increased fluids
- Medication to stop contractions or treat infections
- Bed rest to relieve pressure on your cervix
Remember do not to lie flat on your back because lying on your side will increase blood flow to your baby. Many times, preterm labor can be treated at home. Other times a hospital stay may be needed. Your provider will help determine what is best for you.