Class Review: Preventing Preterm Labor

The perpetual student that I am cannot pass up any class offered on my topic of obsession.  Currently, that's pregnancy.  So when Kaiser gave me a list of classes I could take to prepare for pregnancy and childbirth, I signed up for every single one of them.  DH, lucky man that he is, also gets to come.

Last night we went to a Preventing Preterm Labor Class.  Here's what I learned:

Preterm Labor is any labor that begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy.  Not all Preterm Labor ends in Preterm Birth as there are many drugs that can be administered to delay birth even after labor occurs.  Preterm birth is particularly dangerous as it accounts for 35% of infant deaths since premature babies often have underdeveloped organs and are unable to stabilize their own temperatures.

Risk Factors:
- Alcohol, Tobacco or Drug use during pregnancy.
- Previous preterm births.  If a mother's first child was a preterm birth, her second child has a 30% chance of going into preterm labor.  If her first two children were preterm births, there is a 70% chance that she will go into preterm labor with her 3rd.
-Twins and triplets pregnancies.  This is more a matter of not having enough space for multiples for a full 40 week term.
-Lack of prenatal care.  Anything from abnormally shaped uterus, vaginal infection, excess fluid in the uterus and shortened cervix that can be detected during the course of adequate prenatal care and addressed to prevent issues may cause preterm labor if left untreated.
-Placental Issues.
-Mothers age under 17 or over 35.

Keep in mind that some women have no risk factors and go into preterm labor while others have many risk factors and don't go into Preterm Labor.  There is no way to know for sure which mothers will go into Preterm Labor.

What to Look For: (Contact a doctor if experiencing any two of the following)
-Contractions.  As a FTM, I don't know what these feel like but it's been described to me as pressure building from the pelvis, coming up in waves to the top of the abdomen and then back down.  The pressure causes the stomach to go from the squishiness of the tip of a nose to the hardness of a forehead and can last anywhere between 10 to 60 seconds. It feels like the abdomen is tightening like a fist.
-Change in vaginal discharge.  An unusual change in quantity, texture or both may be a sign of preterm labor.
-Pelvic pressure. Again, any unusual change in pressure on the cervix or pelvis, as though the baby's head is bearing down, is a sign to look out for.
-Lower uterine cramps that feel similar to menstrual cramps.  By the second trimester, anything that feels similar to period cramps are a cause for concern.
-Low, Dull and constant backache.  This is different from the normal back pain experienced during pregnancy.  Again, this symptom should feel unfamiliar and as a result, a cause for concern.
-Upper abdomen cramps, specifically in the stomach area, that feels abnormal like food poisoning, pain or pressure.
-If experiencing any spotting in pink or red, go to the doctor or hospital immediately.  Do not wait for other symptoms, red means go.

How to Address Contractions:
-Stop whatever activity is being performed when the contractions began.
-Go to the bathroom and empty the bladder.
-Drink 2-3 glasses of water or juice.  Nothing caffeinated.
-Go lay down on the left side of the body for 1 hour.
-If contractions have subsided and are not accompanied by other symptoms, there is no need to go to the doctor or hospital.  Spend the rest of the day in low stress activities.  Do not return to the original activity at the time the contractions began.

-If the contractions occur more than once in an hour, after emptying the bladder, drinking the fluids and laying down, immediately call the doctor or go to a hospital.
-If another contraction occurs after the hour of rest, immediately call the doctor or go to a hospital.

Tip: If going to the hospital at less than 32 weeks, make sure the admitting hospital has a NICU unit that can accommodate babies under 32 weeks.  Some hospitals, if unequipped, will transfer the baby to the closest hospital capable of treating and under 32 week baby while the mother has to stay put in the hospital originally check into.  This results in the mother being unable to see her baby until fully recovered in separate hospitals.

What to Expect If Admitted:
-Mothers in preterm labor may be admitted anywhere between a few hours to a few days depending on cervix dilation.  Not all preterm labor will result in preterm birth
-The mother and baby may be put under monitoring.  The baby's heartbeat will be tracked as well as the mother's contractions.  The monitoring device is unable to tell the difference between weak and strong contractions and the doctors will depend on the mother to detail the strength of the contraction. 
-There are a number of different drugs that can be administered based on the individual situation to prevent preterm labor if the baby cannot survive outside of the womb.

For more information, visit the WebMD, March of Dimes or Babycenter.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional.  This is not medical advice.

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