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Preterm Labor & How To Avoid Preterm Labor

by Allison Hutton
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Before a woman can determine how to avoid pre-term labor, she must understand what it is, and what causes the condition. Pre-term labor is diagnosed when labor begins before 37 weeks gestation; 3 or more weeks prior to the due date. Unfortunately, in most cases, the actual cause of pre-term labor is unknown. However, there are instances when certain conditions are identified, and act as a warning sign that early (pre-term) labor is a possibility.

Some known causes of pre-term labor include; a prior history of premature labor, premature rupture of membranes, carrying more than one fetus, smoking, alcohol or substance abuse, uterine infection, incompetent cervix, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes.

It is important to understand what labor is, and when it is actually occurring. There are certain "guidelines" that most doctors and midwives will go over. Make sure to understand what these mean, and when to call your doctor. Usually, these guidelines include the following:

Call Your Doctor If:

*You have four or more contractions in a one-hour period. On a personal note, I felt I needed to call when I had three contractions in an hour, as I lived 45 minutes away from the hospital. Contractions are painful; they are more than a cramping sensation. Your abdomen will get hard during a contraction, and you may have difficulty speaking. Additionally, a contraction can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

*You suspect your water has broken. Each woman experiences this differently. You may feel a sudden gush, or possibly just a trickle. If you feel that your water has broken, call your doctor or midwife immediately. Also, amniotic fluid will have a sweet smell to it. Ask your doctor or midwife if s/he would be willing to give you a small strip of litmus paper to take home. It's easy to use and read, and can prevent unnecessary worry.

*ANY vaginal bleeding warrants an immediate call to your doctor or midwife. *An odd sense of "pressure" can also be a sign of labor. You may feel a sensation if pressure in you abdomen, thighs, rectum, or vagina. You may also have the feeling that the baby is "falling out."

*Any change in vaginal discharge

*A constant pain in the lower back, which radiates towards the uterus, can also be a sign that labor has begun.

Often, the most reliable sign that labor is beginning, is a woman's intuition that things are not "right." Do not hesitate to call your doctor or midwife. Remember that they are there to care for you, and your unborn baby. Never feel that you are "pestering" your doctor of midwife. They understand your concerns, and expect that you will call with questions.

Although there is no sure-fire way to prevent pre-term labor, there are precautions that you can take to give you and your baby the best chance possible of going to full term.

Among these are:

*Don't smoke, drink, or use other harmful substances
*Avoid stress and strenuous work
*Keep the lines of communication open with your health-care provider *Rest as much as you can
*Learn to recognize the signs of pre-term labor
*Pay attention to the signs that your body (and your baby) are giving you

Pre-term labor can be treated with various medications, restrictions, and monitoring. If you feel, at any time, that labor is beginning, call your health care provider immediately. If the condition is caught early on, your baby will have a much better chance of survival.

My name is Allison Hutton. I am a stay at home Mom to my beautiful daughter, Hannah, and wife to my wonderful husband, Daniel. After a long journey battling recurrent pregnancy loss, we welcomed our daughter into the world on St. Patrick's Day, 1999. Motherhood has been the most challenging, exhausting, and rewarding job I have ever had! In my "spare" time, I enjoy freelance writing about issues dealing with pregnancy, parenting, infertility, and women's health.

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