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Premature Labor

Going into labor prematurely is a fear many pregnant women feel, especially those who have faced premature labor before. Premature labor is defined as labor that starts between the 20th week of pregnancy, when the cervix to begins opening earlier than it should.

There are many signs of premature labor. If caught early enough most are premature labor is painless and it can normally be stopped with treatments that include bed rest, fluids and medications that calm and relax the uterus. The signs of premature labor include:

  • Contractions or tightening of the uterus in a noticeable pattern
  • Lower abdominal cramping that may feel like period cramping
  • Increased pressure in your pelvis or vagina
  • Increased discharge
  • Leaking of fluid
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Decreased fetal movement

If you are further than your seventh month or past your 30th week of pregnancy your baby will more than likely survive with a short stay in the NICU. If born before your 30th week of pregnancy your baby could survive, but will probably need an extensive stay and extra care in the NICU.

If you have signs of premature labor you should call your doctor or midwife immediately to describe to them what is going on. They will either instruct you to come in and be seen, or to lie down and see if the signs fade.

If you have to go to the hospital you will be prepped as if you are in labor, given a gown, and an IV will be started. You will also be hooked up to monitors and will probably have your cervix checked for dilation. If you are in labor and it isn’t too late to stop it, then you may be given medications to stop the contractions. On rare occasions you may be hospitalized for the remainder of your pregnancy, which could be days, weeks or months in duration.

If labor has progressed and cannot be stopped, you will probably be given steroids to help your baby’s lungs quickly mature giving your baby a better chance of survival outside the womb. You will then need to deliver your baby and trust the hospital, your doctor and the NICU staff to take care of both of you until you can both go home.

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