When your body gets ready to deliver well before the due date, usually before the 37th week of pregnancy, you experience preterm labour. Your doctor would check for your baby’s health and advise immediate delivery in most of the cases. While most of the preemies (the common name for preterm babies) go on to recover quickly with the excellent care that they get in the NICU, some of them may take a longer time to recover.
You can deliver a pre-term baby anywhere between the 20th and 37th week of your pregnancy. If you deliver too early, say, by week 20 to 25, your baby may have slightly higher health risks than when you deliver by week 30 to 37. However, there is nothing to worry, because medical sciences have developed so much that you can take your baby back home with you in record time these days.
Symptoms to watch out for
If you experience one or few of these symptoms, you should immediately let your doctor know about the same, because these indicate that you are about to deliver a pre-term baby soon.
- Frequent contractions (every 10 minutes or so) or a feeling of tightening in your abdomen, especially after week 20 and before week 37
- Frequent cramps in the lower abdomen area; similar to menstrual cramps
- Constant and chronic pain in the lower part of your back
- All the symptoms of flu – nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea
- Vaginal leakages, especially if discharges are thick, watery or contain blood
- Increased pressure in the vaginal or pelvic area
- Rupture of the membrane that covers the baby, thereby leading to fluid discharge
Not all of these symptoms lead to you delivering a pre-term baby, but it is always better to remain cautious and get the symptoms checked with your doctor.
Causes for preterm delivery
Though last-minute health complications may force you to go for preterm delivery, it is not always unplanned. You are at a greater risk of delivering a preterm baby in one of the following cases:
- Previously delivered a preterm baby
- Carrying more than one baby
- An existing medical condition related to the placenta, uterus or cervix
- Existing health issues such as diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.
- Infections related to the lower genital tract, amniotic fluid and the tissues around your teeth
- Diagnosed congenital disabilities in the baby
- Excessive vaginal bleeding
- A condition is known as polyhydramnios, where you have excessive amniotic fluid
- Smoking, drinking or drug habits
- Got pregnant through fertility treatments such as IVF
- Being too heavy or too light during pregnancy
What to do to avoid preterm labour
You can aim to correct certain lifestyle habits that are under your control to prevent going into preterm labour. It is highly recommended that you quit smoking and drinking right when you know you are pregnant; if possible quit while you start planning for a baby. Also, considering a gap of at least 2 years between your pregnancies is a good idea to have a healthy and full-term pregnancy. Eating healthy meals and getting timely prenatal care can also prevent this condition.