A normal pregnancy with one baby lasts around 40 weeks. Babies who are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are considered, “preterm” or “premature.” Babies born before 28 weeks of pregnancy are considered “extremely preterm.” The earlier a baby is born, the less likely he or she is to survive, and those who do survive often experience long term health issues and disabilities.
The risk of complications increases the earlier the baby is born. Any complication that a premature newborn experiences will be treated in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Warning signs and symptoms of premature labor include:
- Five or more uterine contractions in an hour
- Watery fluid leaking from your vagina (this could indicate that your water has broken)
- Menstrual-like cramps in the lower abdomen that can come and go or be constant
- Low, dull backache felt below the waistline that may come and go or be constant
- Pelvic pressure that feels like your baby is pushing down
- Abdominal cramps that may occur with or without diarrhea
- Increase or change in vaginal discharge
If you think you are experiencing preterm labor, call us immediately. You will be asked to come in for evaluation. The following medications may be administered to help prevent preterm labor from continuing, or help increase your baby’s chance of survival and health.
- Magnesium Sulfate is a medication given through an IV, which may cause nausea temporarily. A large dose is given initially and then a smaller continuous dose is given for 12-24 hours or more.
- Corticosteroid is a medication given 24 hours before birth to help accelerate the baby’s lung and brain maturity.
- Oral medications are sometimes used to decrease the frequency of contractions, and may make women feel better.