Preterm Labor is also known as premature labor. A mature pregnancy lasts at least 40 weeks. A preterm labor is a series of contractions of the uterus at week 37 or earlier. The big problem with preterm labor is that it leads to the birth of a premature baby, which is predisposed to a variety of medical conditions in later life like cerebral palsy, asthma and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.)
The cause of preterm labor is unknown, but women considered at high risk of having preterm labor can be treated. Women at high risk include mothers who have already had a premature birth; women pregnant with more than one baby; women with current or past problems of the cervix or uterus; having a cervix shorter than normal; abusing drugs while pregnant; smokers; mothers under 17 and women who do not get regular checkups during their pregnancies.
Common symptoms of preterm labor are aches in the lower back; change in vaginal discharge; sudden increase in vaginal discharge; abdominal cramps that feel like menstrual cramps; diarrhea; feeling contractions that usually are not painful and having waters break. Some also women also pass blood.
Others feel a great pressure pushing down on their pelvis. Call a doctor or obstetrician right away. Going to a hospital is often necessary because a pelvic exam and a transvaginal ultrasound need to be performed in order to diagnose preterm labor.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, for 30% of women feeling preterm labor will have the symptoms go away on their own within an hour.
The doctor may instruct the mother to lie on her left side and drink two or three glasses of water or juice. If symptoms do not go away in one hour, then the mother needs to go to the hospital.
Sometimes the labor can be delayed with medications like tocolytics. Medications like magnesium sulfate and corticosteroids are given to help the baby will not wait and birth is immanent.