As a soon-to-be mom, you want nothing more than for everything about your pregnancy to go smoothly. But even if you do everything right, you may face unexpected challenges. Knowing about preterm labor and what to expect if it happens to you is a good step to take to be prepared for anything.
What is preterm labor?
Preterm labor is when your body goes into labor early, specifically before 37 weeks of pregnancy. If you’re having regular contractions and changes have been found in your cervix, labor has begun.
What are signs of preterm labor?
It’s not always easy to distinguish between preterm labor symptoms and the normal signs of pregnancy, but here are some key things to look out for:
- Regular contractions (every 10 minutes or more)
- Abdominal cramps
- Constant lower back discomfort
- A feeling of pressure in the pelvis
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Fluid leaking from the vagina (this could mean your water broke)
What should I do if I have symptoms?
If you notice any of these signs, it’s always a good idea to remain calm and contact your doctor right away. They can help determine whether you’re going into preterm labor or just experiencing normal pregnancy symptoms.
What causes preterm labor?
Premature labor is somewhat of a medical mystery. It’s unknown why perfectly healthy women sometimes go into labor early. However, we do know that there are certain risk factors. These include:
- Previous premature birth
- Pregnancy with twins
- A shortened cervix
- Uterus issues
- Smoking or using drugs
- Chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, and diabetes
How to lower your risk of preterm labor
Preterm labor can’t always be avoided, but there are certain lifestyle choices and other actions you can take to increase the odds of having a full-term pregnancy, such as:
- Getting the right nutrition. Foods high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as oily fish, walnuts, and flax seeds may lower your risk of preterm birth.
- Staying away from cigarettes
- Regular prenatal visits to your health care provider
- Managing chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and elevated blood pressure
Does preterm labor always lead to preterm birth?
Going into preterm labor doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll give birth to a premature baby. Many women who are treated for preterm labor go on to give birth after 37 weeks.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, less than 10% of women who are diagnosed with preterm labor deliver within 7 days.
Preterm labor is usually unexpected and comes without much warning. It’s important to know what signs to look out for, so that if you suspect you may be going into labor early, you can notify your doctor and get the care you need.