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Dr. Andrew Rynne
MD
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Women's Health Premature labor

Premature labor

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Premature labor means babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It accounts for about seven percent of total babies born. It is high in women who smoke and in those who are under weight

The causes of premature labor are not clear with 40 percent of cases. The main causes include:

  • Pre-eclampsia Antenatal hemorrhage Multiple pregnancies
  • Fetal abnormalities or death
  • Cervical incompetence
  • Illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease in the mother
  • Stress has shown to induce labor, especially when it is sudden or severe.
  • Many vaginal infections like gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, Chlamydia, and group B streptococci are considered to be associated with premature labor.
  • Bacterial vaginosisin, in which the acidity of the vagina is changed, is also linked with premature labor. This could be possible due the reduction of the natural defenses of the body against infection.

Symptoms of preterm labor

  • Four or more uterine contractions in one hour, before 37 weeks gestation.
  • Pain or rhythmic tightening in lower abdomen or back.
  • A watery discharge from the vagina, which may indicate premature rupture of the membranes surrounding the baby.
  • Menstrual cramps or abdominal pain.
  • Pressure in the pelvis or the sensation that the baby has "dropped".
  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding.

Complications

  • Babies who are born prematurely have the following kinds of problems:
  • Respiratory distress syndrome
  • Retinopathy of prematurity
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Low blood glucose
  • Hypothermia
  • Infection
  • Jaundice
  • Death

Prevention of Premature Labor

Though there is little one can do to stop premature labor, yet there are ways to reduce the risk. These include:

  • Stop smoking
  • Keep fit and healthy
  • Avoid excessive stress
  • Get vaginal infections or discharge treated
  • Symptoms like swollen ankles, blood loss or fluid loss should be reported.

Treatment:

Uterine relaxants are given to combat the uterine contractions.