If you experience any of the following symptoms and you have not yet reached 37 weeks, you should call your healthcare provider ASAP.
- Contractions or cramps, more than 5 in one hour
- Bright red blood from your vagina
- Swelling or puffiness of the face or hands, a sign of pre-eclampsia
- Pain during urination, possible urinary tract, bladder or kidney infection
- Sharp or prolonged pain in your stomach (pre-eclampsia signs)
- Acute or continuous vomiting (pre-eclampsia signs)
- Sudden gush of clear, watery fluid
- Low, dull backache
- Intense pelvic pressure
These symptoms can be confusing because most of them may occur at regular times during the course of your pregnancy and some may also be symptoms of Braxton Hicks. As we always say, it’s better to be safe than to be sorry, so give your healthcare provider a call in the event that you may experience these symptoms.
After all, the only sure way to know if you are in premature labor is by examination of your cervix. If your cervix is opening up, premature labor could be starting.
What should you do if you think you’re experiencing premature labor?
Should you suspect that you may be experiencing preterm labor call your healthcare provider immediately.
Of course there are several things which you can do if you do suspect that you are going into early labor and you are waiting for your partner or someone else to come and collect you (after you have called your healthcare provider!):
- Empty your bladder
- Lie down tilted towards your left side; this may slow down or stop signs and symptoms
- Avoid lying flat on your back; this may cause the contractions to increase
- Drink several glasses of water because dehydration can cause contractions
- Monitor contractions for one hour by counting the minutes that elapse from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next
Can you prevent preterm labor?
Although it is not possible to prevent all preterm labor cases, there are occasions where simple steps can prevent preterm labor.
Keeping yourself well hydrated is probably one of the first things your healthcare provider will tell you if it is determined that you are having preterm labor contractions. If you get dehydrated this increases the blood volume, which in turn increases the amount of oxytocin, which is the hormone which causes uterine contractions, to rise.
Others things that you can do include:
- Bedrest (home or hospital), usually on the left side
- Medications to stop labor (Magnesium sulfate, brethine, terbutaline, etc.)
- Medication to help prevent infection (more likely if your membranes have ruptured or if the contractions are caused by infection)
- Evaluation of your baby (biophysical profile, non-stress or stress tests, amniotic fluid volume index (AFI), ultrasound, etc.)
- Medications to help your baby’s lung develop more quickly (usually if preterm birth is inevitable)