Premature labor is classified as labor that begins before 36 weeks of pregnancy, but it can be as early as 22 weeks. For obvious reasons, preterm labor is dangerous for the baby who is not yet ready to face the world. If you know that you are at risk for giving birth early, there are a few steps you can take to help your baby make it to term.
First, you need to know if you are at risk. Your doctor will most likely let you know, but here are some basic guidelines for your personal use. At risk pregnancies include the very young (under 17 years of age) and older (over 35) women, women carrying multiple babies, women with a history of preterm births, women who suffer from cervical or uterine variations (such as a divided uterus), and African American women.
Your lifestyle can also cause you to go into labor prematurely. If you don’t see a doctor or receive prenatal care during your pregnancy, you are more likely to have your baby early. Also, women who are under a lot of stress, have little or no social support and are in an abusive relationship are at risk for preterm labor. Anyone who abuses drugs, drinks alcohol or smokes during the pregnancy is also at a higher risk than those who quit these habits.
One of the first steps to avoiding premature labor is to quit any of the bad habits listed above. Stopping smoking or using drugs can drastically reduce your chances of having a premature baby. It’s healthier for both you and your unborn child, as well. Also, if you are in an abusive relationship, it might be time to get out.
For women who have jobs that require them to be on their feet most of the time, such as waitresses, bartenders, etc. this can also raise your risk level. It’s a good idea to talk to your boss about being able to sit if at all possible, or you may need to reduce your hours. Talk to your doctor about this.
Taking good care of yourself during the pregnancy is perhaps the best way to avoid having your baby early. Eat well and get enough rest. You should also be taking prenatal vitamins to ensure that your baby doesn’t sap all of the vitamins and minerals out of your body, which can cause deficiencies and early labor. Good prenatal care is vital to catch any problems that might occur, before they result in anything serious . . . like premature labor. If you can’t afford to see a doctor, there are free prenatal clinics all over the country that can help.
If you suspect that you are starting preterm labor, it is important that you go to the hospital immediately. They will be able to administer drugs to stop the contractions and halt the process if possible. The signs of preterm labor include contractions that are less than 10 minutes apart, with or without pain, menstrual-like cramps, a sensation of pressure in the vagina (the baby dropping), and possibly a flow of pinkish or brownish liquid from the vagina. This last one could mean that your water has broken, in which case, you need to get to the emergency room ASAP as the baby will be born soon and needs the special care of experts.
Should the preterm labor be preventable, it is quite possible that you will be required to stay in bed until your baby is physically ready to be born. For some women, this means several months of bed rest. You might be tempted to ignore the doctor’s orders, especially if you are feeling fine, but this is a mistake that could cost your child his life. You may also be given medications to prevent early contractions.
In many cases, premature labor is preventable if you know ahead of time that you are at risk. Your doctor or midwife is the best person to advise you in this situation and you should be sure that you follow their advice, even if you get bored of being in bed all day! Premature labor is very dangerous to your baby and should be avoided at all costs.