Preterm labour is referred to the labour that happens before the completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy and commonly occurs in almost 10% of childbirths. However, not all mothers who experience preterm labour give birth to premature babies.
Risk Factors Contributing to Preterm Labour
The risk of preterm labour increases if the woman:
- is younger than 18 years of age or older than 35
- is subjected to poor nutrition during the gestational weeks
- is carrying multiple babies (twins or triplets)
- had problematic uterus, including uterus fibroids
- had early rupturing of water membranes before the due date
- had abortion during her previous pregnancies
- had previous record of preterm delivery
- had been subjected to cervical surgery, such as cone biopsy before pregnancy
- has been subjected to infections during pregnancy, such as sexually-transmitted infections, urinary tract infections, etc.,
- has the habit of cigarette smoking or alcohol intake
Signs and Symptoms of Preterm Labour
A woman must immediately rush to hospital is she experiences the signs of preterm labour including:
- Abdominal cramps similar to menstrual cramps
- Diarrhoea or loose stool
- Regular tightening or contractions with a count of more than 4 contractions in 1 h, with or without pain
- Pressure in the pelvic region
- Increased amount of vaginal discharge or changing of discharge from watery to bloody fluid
- Dilation of the cervix (thinning and softening of the cervix)
Preventing Preterm Labour
Some of the simple and best ways to avoid the risk of preterm labour include:
- Try to leave at the least 18 months gap between pregnancies.
- Seek medical advice in overcoming the risk-factors associated with preterm labour.
- Take proper treatment for diabetes.
- Strictly say no to alcohol and cigarettes.
- Maintain your weight during pregnancy, do not over eat or under eat and increase the risk of preterm labour. More weight gain can lead to the development of gestational diabetes.
- Consume all the prenatal vitamins and supplements to improve the health status.
- Eat balance and healthy diet including all the food groups. Also eat little quantity and increase the frequency of eating from 3 to 5 times daily.
- Drink more amounts of fluids and keep the body hydrated.
- Take proper care of gums and teeth as gum disease may increase the risk of preterm labour.
- Immediately treat bacterial vaginosis with antibiotics
- If you had pervious preterm labour, talk to your doctor for hormone progesterone shots.
If the woman is subjected to preterm labour, she is first admitted in the labour and delivery ward and evaluated for confirmation. The assessment procedure includes testing for infection, measuring cervical length, ultrasound scanning, monitoring foetal position and testing of vaginal discharge to identify if the discharge contains foetal fibronectin or amniotic membranes.