Premature, or preterm, birth is any delivery that takes place before the 37th week of pregnancy. You may be relieved to know that more babies are born late than early. The problem with having a baby early is that the baby does not have all of the time he needs to develop. The earlier the baby is born, the greater the risk that there may be complications.
You can help prevent preterm labor with proper nutrition and not smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs during your pregnancy, and following your healthcare team’s instructions carefully. Keep in mind that the best way to prevent preterm delivery is to detect preterm labor early. As always, when in doubt contact your healthcare team or Labor and Delivery at your hospital. Be sure to notify your healthcare team if you experience:
- A change in vaginal discharge, such as change in color of mucus or a discharge with a fish-like odor
- Sensation that something feels different, for example, agitation, flu-like symptoms, or sensation that the baby has dropped
- Leaking or gushing clear fluid or bright red bleeding or spotting
- Persistent low, dull backache or low back or pelvic pressure, or
- Four or more uterine contractions per hour
Contractions may feel like menstrual cramps or a sensation of the baby rolling up in a ball. Also be alert to increased uterine activity or increased pelvic pressure with or without thigh cramps.
If you experience any of these symptoms, lie down on your side, place your hand on your lower abdomen and feel for contractions. If after one hour, these symptoms continue, be sure to contact your healthcare team immediately.