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What is preterm labor?

6 September 2018

Preterm labor is defined as labor that begins before 37 weeks. It is one of the main reasons babies are born disabled or die. However, good prenatal care improves the chances that a premature baby will grow up healthy.

What are the signs and symptoms of preterm labor?

In case of having some of the following symptoms, it is of vital importance to consult your doctor:

  • Bleeding or cramps.
  • Contractions with back pain or pressure in the groin or thighs.
  • Fluid that seeps from the vagina in drops or streams.
  • Bright red vaginal bleeding.
  • A thick, mucous, bloody discharge from the vagina.
  • Water breaks (rupture of membranes).
  • More than five contractions per hour or contractions that are regular and painful.
  • Contractions that become longer, stronger, and closer together.

What causes preterm labor?

Certain conditions can increase the risk of preterm labor, such as:

  • A previous preterm birth.
  • History of cervical surgery.
  • Infection of the mother or the membranes around the baby.
  • Certain birth defects of the baby.
  • Maternal hypertension.
  • When the water breaks prematurely.
  • Too much amniotic fluid.
  • Bleeding in the first trimester.

There are other health problems of the mother, due to lifestyle, that can lead to premature birth, such as:

  • Tobacco use.
  • Drug use.
  • Stress.
  • Poor weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Obesity.

There may also be a risk of preterm labor from problems with the placenta, uterus, or cervix, such as:

  • Cervical insufficiency.
  • When the shape of the uterus is not normal.
  • Malfunction and premature abruption of the placenta.

Tip to reduce the risk of preterm labor:

  • Follow your doctor’s advice to the letter.
  • Prenatal care reduces the risk of having the baby early, so it’s important to see your doctor as soon as you know you’re pregnant.
  • Get routine checkups throughout your pregnancy.
  • Eat healthy foods, see your nutritionist.
  • It is recommended not to smoke or consume alcohol or drugs.
  • If you’re planning to have a baby, but you’re not pregnant yet, it’s important to see your doctor.
  • Make sure you get prenatal care and keep up with recommended appointments and tests.
  • Reduces stress during pregnancy.
  • Talk to your doctor about other ways to stay healthy.
  • Don’t forget to tell your doctor if you’ve had a premature birth before.

With information from  MedlinePlus

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