How to Avoid Preterm Labor

Woman and her OB talking about her medical records
Photo © Hero Images/Getty Images

Preterm labor is a very serious complication of pregnancy. Preterm labor strikes quickly and silently in many women during their pregnancy. Unfortunately, many women do not understand the signs of preterm labor. Early detection can help prevent premature birth and possibly enable you to carry your pregnancy to term or to give your baby a better chance of survival.

Prevention of Preterm Labor

So how to avoid preterm labor becomes the question of the day.

There is no 100% sure method of preventing preterm labor, however, there are some basics that you should be aware of and discuss with your doctor or midwife:

  • Vaginal Infections: Infections like yeast, bacterial vaginosis, etc. can all cause premature labor. Having any symptoms of a vaginal infection checked out and treated, if necessary, can help diminish the risk of premature rupture of the membranes (PROM) and premature contractions.
  • Fluid Levels: Staying well hydrated can also help prevent premature contractions, this is particularly true in the summer months. When you become dehydrated the concentration of oxytocin can rise in your blood thus causing contractions. Remember, thirst is not the first sign of dehydration. By the time you are thirsty, you are already on your way to being dehydrated. 
  • Keeping your prenatal appointments: Sometimes what you think is a normal pregnancy symptoms can really be an indicator of premature labor. By keeping your regular prenatal appointments your doctor or midwife can help screen you for risk of preterm labor and treat it as early as possible if you do develop signs of premature labor.

    Signs of Preterm Labor

    While preterm labor can happen at any time, there may be some signs. Call your practitioner if you have any of the following:

    • Contractions or cramps, more than 5 in one hour
    • Bright red blood from your vagina
    • Swelling or puffiness of the face or hands, a sign of preeclampsia
    • Pain during urination, possible urinary tract, bladder or kidney infection

    They will be able to help you determine if what you are experiencing is a normal pregnancy symptoms or if you need more investigation. They may have you come into their office or go to the hospital for monitoring.

    Management of Preterm Labor

    There are a lot of variables to managing premature labor, both in medical options and in terms of what is going on with you and/or your baby. Here are some of the things that you may deal with when in premature labor.

    • Hydration (Oral or IV)
    • Bedrest (Home or Hospital), usually left side lying
    • Medications to stop labor (Magnesium sulfate, brethine, terbutaline, etc.)
    • Medication to help prevent infection (More likely if your membranes have ruptured or if the contractions are caused by infection)
    • Evaluation of your baby (Biophysical profile (BPP), non-stress (NST) or stress tests, amniotic fluid volume index (AFI), ultrasound, etc.)
    • Medications to help your baby's lung develop more quickly (Usually if premature birth in inevitable)
    • Preparation for premature birth

    The best outcomes for preterm labor are always prevention and early detection. Make sure to ask your doctor or midwife to discuss the signs and symptoms of premature labor with you and your partner at your next visit.

    Sources:

    Preterm Labor. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Patient Education. July 2004.

    King JF, Flenady VJ, Papatsonis DNM, Dekker GA, Carbonne B. Calcium channel blockers for inhibiting preterm labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD002255. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002255.

    Continue Reading