Premature or pre-term labor is labor that begins more than three weeks before you are expected to delivery. Contractions (tightening of the muscles in the uterus) cause the cervix (lower end of the uterus) to open earlier than normal.
Pre-term labor might result in the birth of a premature baby. However, labor often can be stopped to allow the baby more time to grow and develop in the uterus. Treatments to stop premature labor include bedrest, fluids given intravenously (in your vein), and medicines to relax the uterus.
If born prematurely, a baby would be likely to survive after the seventh month, but might need to stay for a short time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). If the baby is born earlier than seven months, he or she might be able to survive with specialized care in the NICU.
It is important for you to learn the signs of premature labor so you can get help to stop it and prevent your baby from being born too early. Premature labor is usually not painful, but there are several warning signs, including:
Call your health care provider right away if you have:
Lie down and check for contractions if you have any of the following signs of premature labor:
To check for contractions, place your fingertips on your abdomen. If you can feel your uterus tightening and softening, you can then record how often the contractions are happening.
If you have four or more contractions in one hour that do not go away after changing your position or relaxing, call your health care provider. Also call your health care provider. Also, call your health care provider if the symptoms noted here do not go away in one hour or if the pain is severe and persistent.
Write down the time at the beginning of one contraction and again at the beginning of the next contraction.
The muscles in your uterus will contract from about the fourth month of pregnancy. Irregular, infrequent contractions are called Braxton-Hicks contractions (also known as “false labor pains”).
Sharp, shooting pains on either side of your abdomen (called round ligament pain) that travel into the groin might result from the stretching ligaments that support your growing uterus.
To ease your discomfort:
After talking to your health care provider about your signs of premature labor, he or she might tell you to go to the hospital. Once you arrive:
If you are in premature labor, you might receive medicine to stop labor so your baby has more time to develop in the uterus. If the labor has progressed and cannot be stopped, you might need to deliver your baby. If you are not in premature labor, you will be able to go home.
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