The normal gestation period for humans is about 40 weeks. Some babies are born before 40 weeks. Any birth that occurs more than three weeks before the due date, or before 37 weeks, is defined as a premature birth.
Abdominal pain that feels something like menstrual cramps
Dull pain in the lower back
Pressure in the pelvis and tightening in the thighs
Vaginal bleeding or spotting, or watery discharge
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Your obstetrician will to see if your cervix has dilated, and if fetal membranes have ruptured. Regularity of contractions will also be monitored, and an
may be performed.
Sometimes special tests are done, such as an ultrasound, to measure the cervix length, or fetal fibronectin (fFN).
The definition of
requires change in the dilation of the cervix under the influence of uterine contractions. Prior to actual preterm labor, the phrase
threatened preterm labor
may be used. Threatened preterm labor is potentially reversible.
Depending on how premature the delivery is, the doctor will talk to you about the risks associated with proceeding with the labor. If the fetus has developed enough to be able to live successfully outside of the uterus, the doctor will proceed with the labor. If it is too early and too risky to deliver, the doctor will try to stop the labor. Stopping labor is not simple. Often, the medications are not effective in preventing a preterm birth.
Sometimes when there is a risk of preterm deliver, the doctor will suggest giving a steroid medication to the mother. The medication can reach the fetus and cause maturation of the surfactant (a substance which prevents lung collapse) in the lungs.
If you are diagnosed as likely to to deliver your baby prematurely, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help reduce your chances of delivering your baby prematurely, take the following steps:
Get the proper prenatal care throughout your entire pregnancy
Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients
Avoid smoking, alcohol, and drugs
Keep chronic diseases under control
Reduce your stress level
Reduce activities as required by your doctor, such as cutting back on work or exercising less strenuously
Follow your doctor's recommendations about having sex during pregnancy
*¹10/29/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Bakhireva LN, Schatz M, Jones KL, et al. Asthma control during pregnancy and the risk of preterm delivery or impaired fetal growth.
Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a