Preterm labor occurs when regular contractions result in the opening of your cervix after week 20 and before week 37 of pregnancy.
Preterm labor can result in premature birth. The earlier premature birth happens, the greater the health risks for your baby. Many premature babies (preemies) need special care in the neonatal intensive care unit. Preemies can also have long-term mental and physical disabilities.
The specific cause of preterm labor often isn’t clear. Certain risk factors might increase the risk, but preterm labor can also occur in pregnant women with no known risk factors.
Signs and symptoms of preterm labor include:
Regular or frequent sensations of abdominal tightening (contractions)
Constant low, dull backache
A sensation of pelvic or lower abdominal pressure
Mild abdominal cramps
Vaginal spotting or light bleeding
Preterm rupture of membranes — in a gush or a continuous trickle of fluid after the membrane around the baby breaks or tears
A change in type of vaginal discharge — watery, mucus-like or bloody.
You might not be able to prevent preterm labor — but there’s much you can do to promote a healthy, full-term pregnancy. For example:
· Seek regular Reflexology care
· Seek regular prenatal care
· Eat a healthy diet.
· Avoid risky substances (smoking, alcohol, illicit drugs)
· Consider pregnancy spacing.
· Be cautious when using assisted reproductive technology (ART). If you’re planning to use ART to get pregnant, consider how many embryos will be implanted. Multiple pregnancies carry a higher risk of preterm labor.
If your health care provider determines that you’re at increased risk of preterm labor, he or she might recommend taking additional steps to reduce your risk, such as:
· taking preventative medications
· Managing chronic conditions. Certain conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, increase the risk of preterm labor.