Preterm Labor - The facts you need to know
Is Preterm Labor?
The length of pregnancy is counted from the first day of
your last period. Your due date is figured as being 40 weeks
from your last period. Here are some terms used:
• Pregnancy that ends before
20 weeks is called a miscarriage or an abortion
• Pregnancy that ends at or
after 20 weeks is called a delivery
• Delivery at or after 37weeks
is a full term birth
• Delivery between 20 and
37 weeks is a preterm birth
Is Preterm Labor A Problem?
• Babies born before 37 weeks
may have various problems due to incomplete growth
• Generally, the earlier babies
are born, the more severe their problems
• Problems can be long term,
affecting your child for many years
• Early identification of
preterm labor may help prolong your pregnancy
Is At Risk For Preterm Birth?
The following conditions may be associated with preterm
birth. If you have any of these
conditions, you can talk to your doctor about them:
• Previous preterm labor or
• Current pregnancy with twins,
triplets, or more Abnormally shaped uterus or
on the uterus
• Two or more second trimester
abortions or miscarriages
• Incompetent cervix, cone
biopsy, large fibroids
• Severe kidney and urinary
• Cervical dilation or effacement
before 36 weeks
• Excessive uterine contractions
before 36 weeks
• Bleeding, placenta previa,
too much, or too little amniotic fluid
• Women younger than 18 or
older than 35, and those with unusual physical or
What Is Labor?
Labor is the process in which the uterus (womb) contracts
or tightens in a regular pattern
causing the cervix (opening of the womb) to open and prepare
for delivery. You are in labor
when both uterine contractions and cervical change occur.
Changes in the cervix can be
checked during a pelvic exam by your doctor. The changes
that occur during labor include:
• Softening of the cervix
• Shortening or thinning out
of the cervix
• Dilation or opening of the
• Movement of the cervix from
a backward to a forward position in the vagina
• Lowering of the baby’s
head into the birth canal
These are changes that your body will look for to determine
if you are in labor. Your role in
early detection of labor is to notice uterine contractions
and report any signs of preterm
Causes Preterm Labor?
The causes of preterm labor are not clearly understood.
It is known that certain factors are
connected with preterm labor and may increase your risk
for early delivery. Very common
factors include carrying more than one baby (twins, triplets,
or more) or having had a
preterm birth in the past.
At this time, preterm birth
cannot be prevented. We can only do the next best thing
detect it early and treat it effectively to help the pregnancy
There Warning Signs Of Preterm Labor?
You have a better sense of the changes occurring in your
body than anyone else and
therefore you are the best person to identify these early
signs. Reporting them to your doctor
may mean better management of your pregnancy.
The following are signs that
occur in preterm labor. However, they can also be a part
healthy pregnancy. As you go over these signs, think about
what is a change from the normal
way you feel.
- Uterine contractions.
A contraction is a tightening of the muscles in the uterus.
Using your fingertips to feel your uterus, you should
be able to indent your uterus
when it is relaxed. During a contraction you can feel
your uterus tighten and become
hard. Contractions occur normally throughout pregnancy.
They usually do not hurt
and can occur at any time. Preterm labor often a pattern
to the “tightenings”. Your
uterus will feel hard over the entire surface and this
tightening may occur every 15
minutes or closer. Each contraction may last from 40 seconds
up to over a minute.
Remember — preterm labor contractions are often
painless and occur every
15 minutes or closer.
These are felt low in the abdomen, just above the pubic
bone. The cramping may have a pattern, feeling like waves
or fluttering. You may
also feel constant cramping.
- Low, dull backache.
The backache is located mainly in the lower back and may
radiate to the sides or front. It may be rhythmic or constant,
and often is not relieved
by change of position.
- Pelvic pressure.
You may feel pressure or a fuliness in the pelvic area,
in your back
or your thighs. It may feel as though the baby is going
to “fall out.”
Intestinal cramps. These may occur with or without diarrhea.
You may have the
feeling of “gas pains.”
- An increase or
change in vaginal discharge. The amount may be
more than you
normally have. It may by more mucousy or watery. The color
may become pink or
Many women with with preterm labor just have a sense
that things do not feel as they did before.
Should I Do If I Think I Have Preterm Labor?
1. Go to bathroom and empty your
2. Check to make sure you have not
missed a dose of any medicine you may be
3. Maintain adequate fluid intake
per your doctor’s instructions.
4. Rest on your LEFT side, lying
5. Record uterine contractions.
6. Call your doctor.
Sometimes, a problem can occur that needs attention right
away. If you have any of the signs
below, CALL YOUR DOCTOR!
If you have vaginal bleeding, a large gush or steady stream
of bright red blood, it is an emergency. Get help right
away, lie on your side and put your feet higher than your
head. Save the pads or cloths used to catch the blood.
- Rupture of the
Bag of Water (Amniotic Sac).
Sometimes your water breaks early. If you notice a gush
of fluid or a steady trickle of fluid, you should call
- Severe Stomach
Pain. If you have sharp, constant, severe path,
that doesn’t go away when you change position, with
or without contractions or bleeding, call your doctor.
If you are having preterm labor, your doctor might prescribe
the Alure ® Preterm Labor Program.
Nurses and pharmacists, with experience in caring for pregnant
women, will help you learn more about your condition. They
work closely with you to watch for the early signs of preterm
labor and to notify your doctor of any change in your condition.
The Alure Preterm Labor Program allows you to receive quality
care in your home.