Preterm Labor and Birth

Preterm Labor and Birth

Dr. Morice offers the best perinatal care to help ensure a healthy and safe pregnancy. The Atchafalaya clinic is equipped with state-of-the-art imaging equipment to help monitor you and your baby’s progress every step of the way. However, sometimes complications can arise unexpectedly, such as preterm labor.

What is preterm labor?

Preterm labor is when your cervix begins to dilate before you’ve reached 37 weeks of pregnancy. .  A preterm birth means your baby is delivered before 37 weeks in utero. Preterm labor can be stopped, however, so it doesn’t always result in a preterm birth.  About 50% of women who enter into preterm labor don’t deliver until 37 or more weeks.

What causes preterm labor?

Preterm labor can be caused by labor induction or can be spontaneous. Preterm labor is induced when either the mother or fetus are facing health challenges, such as preeclampsia, that puts either at risk. In these cases, delivering preterm is safer than letting the problem progress.

When preterm labor is not caused by labor induction, it is labeled “spontaneous” preterm labor. There are many factors that may lead to preterm labor, and the cause unknown in about 30% of cases. Factors that may lead to preterm labor include:

  • Being pregnant with multiples
  • Infection (including UTIs and bacterial vaginosis)
  • Separation of placenta from the uterus
  • An abnormal cervix or uterus
  • Use of cigarettes, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs
  • Poor prenatal care
  • High stress levels
  • Pregnancy via in-vitro fertilization
  • A past preterm labor
  • Pregnancy within 3 months of delivery of a baby
  • Peridontal disease
  • Maternal diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease

How do I know if I’m having preterm labor?

If you are having 4 or more contractions in 20 minutes and are less than 37 weeks pregnant, you may be in preterm labor. Contractions can also be caused by dehydration, a full bladder or bowel, or your baby moving a lot. These are normal and do not indicate labor. Therefore, if you notice 4 or more contractions within 20 minutes, try drinking 2-3 glasses of water, emptying your bowel and bladder, and laying on your left side for at least an hour. If you are simply having non-labor contractions, this should help stop them. If the contractions become stronger or more frequent, however, call your doctor or go to the hospital immediately.

What are the risks associated with preterm labor and preterm birth?

Babies who are born before 37 weeks of gestation are at risk of multiple health problems. Each baby is different, however, so there’s no way to predict the health of a premature baby.

Generally speaking, the more premature the baby is, the more serious health risks they face. Babies born before 24 weeks of gestation have a higher fatality rate and face more serious health problems than those born are 24 weeks. Those born after 32 weeks, however, have a high survival rate but still may have developmental disabilities. More than 90% of babies born after 28 weeks survive.

  • Short-term complications of preterm babies include:
  • Breathing problems due to the baby’s respiratory system not being fully developed
  • Heart problems, including patent ductus arteriosus and low blood pressure
  • Inability to maintain body temperature
  • Jaundice
  • Immune deficiency
  • Gastrointestinal complications, including necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Anemia
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Long-term complications of premature babies include:
  • Mental or physical disability
  • Delayed growth and development
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • Vision, hearing, and dental problems
  • Chronic health problems, such as asthma or infections
  • Cerebral palsy

Preterm babies are typically cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until they are consistently putting on weight and able to maintain a warm body temperature.

What should I do if I’m at high risk for preterm labor?

Speak with your doctor about your risk and how to prevent preterm labor. Dr. Morice provides excellent perinatal care in Morgan City, Louisiana. Contact us today at (985) 702-BABY or to make an appointment.

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