Preterm labor, also known as premature labor occurs when the body starts getting ready for birth before the 37th week of pregnancy. This kind of labor occurs when the uterus tightens, and the cervix begins to open, which may result in premature birth. Babies born before week 37 of pregnancy may not be fully developed; hence they can have life-threatening health problems such as cerebral palsy. Some of the risk factors for preterm labor include a short cervix, short time between pregnancies, pregnancy complications, and lifestyle factors like smoking and overweight.
The following are signs of preterm labor:
• Lower back ache – A dull ache on the lower back is one of the most common warning signs for preterm labour. The pain may be constant or may come and go. More often, it doesn’t go away even if you change positions.
• Flu-like symptoms like vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea, especially after drinking liquids are an indication of preterm labour. If you notice any flu-like symptoms, you must see your doctor immediately.
• Cramps in your lower abdomen that feel like period pain and sometimes may come with diarrhea.
• Frequent contractions of your womb every 10 minutes or more often. These contractions may be painful or painless and may get stronger and more frequent.
• Increased pressure in your pelvis, like your baby is pushing down. Usually, the pressure comes and goes.
• A sudden increase in vaginal discharge or a change in the type of vaginal discharge. It can be watery, mucus, or bloody.
• A gush of fluid from the vagina, which may happen due to ruptured membranes.
• Eyesight problems like blurred or double vision.
• Vaginal spotting or light bleeding.
• A frequent urge to urinate which is primarily caused by pressure on the bladder.
• When the mucous plug at the cervix comes away and out of the vagina.
• Sudden breaking of the waters.
• Swelling of your hands, feet, or face.
• Baby stops moving or moves less
If you experience these signs before the 37th week of your pregnancy, you should see a doctor as quickly as possible. Preterm labor is diagnosed by conducting a cervical exam that entails checking the cervix for changes or a transvaginal ultrasound exam that measures the length of your cervix. A healthcare professional may also test your amniotic fluid to determine whether it’s broken or not.