Can You Prevent Preterm Labor?
Compelling new research says it may be possible. Here, nine surprising ways to help get your baby to term - and to a healthier start in life
Recognize The Signs
9. Recognize the signs of early labor. Although little can be done to reverse the course of preterm labor once it's started, delivery can usually be delayed for a few days to a week using tocolytics, drugs that suppress contractions. During this critical window, a doctor can administer corticosteroids, which can improve fetal health by speeding up lung maturation. (Without treatment, a preemie may suffer from respiratory distress syndrome, a breathing complication which can lead to health problems and even death.) Delaying labor also allows time to transfer a woman to a hospital with a more sophisticated NICU.
So it's important to recognize the signs of preterm labor, even if you don't think you're at risk. According to the March of Dimes, these include contractions that occur every ten minutes or more, fluid leaking from your vagina, pelvic pressure, lower back pain, menstrual-like cramps, and abdominal cramps that begin in the back and move to the front. False labor (also known as Braxton Hicks contractions) may stop when you change position, is often weak, and is usually felt only in the front. Not sure if it's the real thing? Call your doctor right away.
It's essential to remember that a full 80 percent of women who have symptoms of preterm labor will not deliver early, according to ACOG. And the vast majority of pregnancies result in babies who are born healthy and full-term. While medical strides in preventing and reversing the course of preterm labor have been slow, our ability to care for premature babies has skyrocketed. Between 90 and 95 percent of babies born after 30 weeks' gestation survive, with most growing up to be healthy adults.
Cayce Cowan is now a robust 2 1/2-year-old with a younger brother, Cody, who weighed a whopping 9 pounds, 13 ounces at birth. But Kim Cowan will never forget the stress of a surprise early delivery. "The days before Cayce was born were the worst. We had no idea what was happening, and not knowing was the hardest part. We were very fortunate to have a healthy little boy." Hopefully, new research will help doctors find ways to identify and treat women who are at risk of preterm labor, delivering healthier babies and happier moms.