Too many babies are born too early. Babies born more than 4 weeks before their due date can have serious problems breathing, eating, and keeping warm.
No one can tell who will have preterm labor. It can happen to any pregnant woman. If you know the signs and symptoms of preterm labor and seek medical help in time, it may save your baby’s life.
Preterm labor is labor which occurs more than 4 weeks before your due date. Uterine contractions (tightening of the womb) can cause the cervix (mouth of the womb) to open earlier than normal. This can result in the birth of a preterm baby. Two-thirds of all newborn deaths result from being born too early.
In many cases, preterm labor can be stopped and the pregnancy continue until the baby is more mature. This is only possible with medical help in early labor. The earlier you seek medical help for preterm labor, the better the chances are of stopping it.
When any muscle in your body contracts, it becomes hard or tight to the touch. When your uterus (womb), which is a muscle, contracts, you will feel your uterus get tight or hard. Preterm labor contractions may be painless when they first start. When the contraction stops, your uterus becomes soft.
It is normal for your uterus to contract at times during your pregnancy. This may happen when you first lie down, after sex, or after walking up and down stairs. You may notice frequent contractions in the last three weeks before your due date.
It is not normal to have frequent uterine contractions in pregnancy 4 weeks prior to your due date. If you feel a contraction every 15 minutes or more often, for 1 hour (more than 4 contractions in an hour), then your uterus is contracting too much.
Lie down on your side and place your fingertips on your belly. If you feel tightening and softening, you can time how often these tightenings (contractions) are happening. Note the time of the start of the contraction and how many minutes pass before the start of the next contraction.
Everyday, because uterine contractions don’t always hurt. They may occur with no warning signs.
Twice a day, lie on your side and lay your fingertips on your abdomen and feel your uterus. Feel for contractions (tightening) for 30 minutes. It is helpful to do this at the same time each day. Also check for any of the warning signs every day.
If warning signs occur, check for contractions. You should also call your doctor or go to the hospital if you feel your contractions are very painful, you have bright red bleeding, or you think your water has broken.
Drink 2-3 cups of water or juice and check for contractions while lying on your left side. Sometimes this extra fluid will help stop contractions. Continue to check for contractions for 30 minutes. If you feel more than 2 contractions, check for at least another 30 minutes. Two hours after drinking the water (juice), if your contractions are still as close as 2 in 30 minutes, call your doctor and go to the hospital.