Premature labor is labor that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Because premature (preterm) labor can lead to preterm birth (also known as premature birth), it is taken very seriously by doctors and midwives. Babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy can face serious health problems. According to the March of Dimes Foundations, nearly half a million babies are born prematurely each year in the United States.
For many women, there are no certain causes for premature labor. All women are susceptible to preterm labor and birth, even if they do everything “right” during their pregnancy. This is why prenatal care is vitally important to women throughout their pregnancy. Doctors are able to monitor the health of a mother and her unborn child and can spot anything unusual or concerning.
There are risk factors that can make a woman more likely than others to have preterm labor and birth. A previous premature baby can make a woman more likely to give birth again prematurely. Women who are pregnant with multiple babies are more likely to have preterm labor and birth. Any problems associated with a woman’s cervix (presently or in the past) can also lead to preterm labor and birth. High blood pressure before and/or during pregnancy can also lead to preeclampsia, which is notorious for sending women into preterm labor.
Signs of premature labor include contractions every 10 minutes or more often, a change in vaginal discharge, pelvic pressure, low backache, and water breaking. Any of these signs should never be ignored, and women who think they are in preterm labor should seek medical attention immediately.
Posted on behalf of Sean Lambert M.D., North Pointe OB/GYN Associates