Preterm labor is labor that takes place before the 37th week of pregnancy and occurs in approximately 12% of all births. Because preterm labor is very serious and can be life threatening, it is important that all expectant mothers recognize the signs and symptoms associated with preterm labor.
Babies that are born before their due date are at an increased risk of needing specialized care at the time of birth as well as developing long-term health problems. Every day that your baby spends in the uterus is crucial for fetal growth. When babies are born prematurely, they are removed from the optimal space for growth and development, making their small, fragile bodies more susceptible to a variety of complications. These include respiratory distress, temperature regulation conflicts, jaundice and difficulty eating.
If you experience any signs of preterm labor it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Your healthcare provider may request that you visit the hospital or clinic for an immediate evaluation or she might suggest waiting for one hour while lying on your left side to see if the symptoms persist. Symptoms of preterm labor include:
If your healthcare provider recommends being evaluated, you can expect a urinalysis, vital signs, cervical check to determine dilation and/or effacement and non-stress test to monitor uterine contractions. Based upon the findings, your doctor will decide what type of treatment is best for you and your baby. Some women are able to go home with a recommendation to take partial or full bed rest for a part of their pregnancy, while others will be treated in the hospital with strict monitoring and daily medication to prevent labor from taking place too early. A cerclage may be necessary to keep the cervix closed and steroids may be injected to help the fetal lungs mature.
If you are evaluated by your healthcare provider and the labor cannot be stopped, you can expect a series of events to take place. If possible and necessary, the mother will be transported to a larger hospital that hosts a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for specialized care after the baby is born. Fetal monitoring will be continued and a biophysical profile will likely be performed to check the wellbeing of the developing fetus. After delivery, the baby will be taken to the NICU for specialized medical attention, if needed. The baby will probably be placed in a special incubator that helps to maintain the newborn’s temperature and aids in infection control. So that doctors and nurses can provide the necessary care that your baby needs, tubes, wires and monitors will likely be attached to your baby.
With the incredible advancements in the medical and technological fields today, premature babies have a higher survival rate.
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