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Premature Labor

About 10% of women will go into labor before the 36th week of pregnancy.

Babies born more than 4 weeks early can struggle to breathe, eat and stay warm.

Thankfully, our hospitals have  intensive care units staffed with newborn specialists who are readily available to take care of your new baby. However, prematurity can lead to serious health consequences for your baby. Prevention and early identification are key to having a full term baby.

Risk Factors for Premature Labor:

Dehydration

Your body and your baby require at least a gallon of water a day. More on those hot July and August days in Phoenix. Your pregnancy is 80% water. Be the best water drinker.

Smoking

Cigarette smoking robs the uterus of oxygen for more than an hour after a cigarette. Smoking can also cause the placenta to detach and bleed leading to early contractions.

Fatigue

Being pregnant is hard work. Your body needs rest daily. Resting and sleeping on your side provides the uterus with the best blood flow.

Drug Use

Drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine irritate the uterus, can cause your placenta to detach and compromise the growth and development of the baby.

Poor Weight Gain

Feeding your pregnancy well is very important. Your weight gain goal depends upon your health and weight at the onset of pregnancy. Discuss this with your doctor.

Infections

Vaginal or bladder infections can irritate the uterus and cause contractions.

Uterine Abnormality

If the inside of your uterus has an abnormal shape it may not stretch and grow without early contractions.

Short Cervix

Whether you were born with a shortened cervix or have had cervical surgery, women with a shortened cervix are at increased risk for premature labor.

Previous History of Premature Labor

If you experienced early contractions or delivery in your previous pregnancy, then you have a 30% of greater chance of early labor in this pregnancy.

High Blood Pressure

Obtain a blood pressure cuff and check your pressure at home.

Diabetes

Check your blood sugars before eating in the morning and two hours after every meal. Record these values and report to your doctor.

Symptoms to Report:

  • Contractions that occur more than 6 times an hour for more than 3 hours in a row despite resting on your side, good hydration and an empty bladder. 
  • Leaking of fluid. Although you will have a great deal of vaginal discharge during your pregnancy, if the discharge is watery and continuous your water may be leaking. 
  • Bleeding, bloody mucus, pink spotting. Bleeding before the 36th week of pregnancy often indicates an excess number of contractions. 
  • Pelvic pressure will increase as your pregnancy gets heavier and the baby begins to dip down into the pelvis. This pressure sensation should improve when you rest. An excessive amount of pelvic pressure may indicate that you are contracting more than 6 times an hour. Place your hand on your uterus to see if you feel contractions. 
  • Back ache is a common complaint of later pregnancy, but if your back ache seems to come and go in a rhythmic manner you may be having contractions. 
  • Bowel changes including cramping and diarrhea may signal premature labor.

If you are having symptoms of premature labor you should go home, lay on the sofa or in bed on your side and drink lots of water. If your contractions have not subsided in the next two hours, please call the office.

If your symptoms occur after office hours or on the weekend you can also come to the OB Triage center on the third floor at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center for evaluation.

Premature Labor Evaluation

At the hospital you will be placed on the fetal monitor to check on both your baby and your uterine activity.

The nurse will check your urine sample to identify a bladder infection and your state of hydration.

A culture of the cervix and vagina called a Fetal Fibronecton may be collected prior to a vaginal exam to check your cervix for dilation.

If contractions are detected that concern your doctor then you will be given medication to stop them.

Once the staff have stopped your contractions you will be discharged home to rest and monitor further. Plan to stay home from work the following day to be sure that the contractions have resolved completely.

Call the office in the morning to update us on your symptoms and make a follow-up appointment in the next 3 days.