What is preterm labor?

Premature or preterm labor is regular uterine contractions that occur at least once every 10 minutes and lead to cervical dilation or weakness before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Thus, the baby is born prematurely and can be at risk of health problems.

What are the signs of preterm labor?

Signs and symptoms of preterm labor include:

  • Five or more uterine contractions per hour.
  • Leaking of watery fluid from the vagina (this may indicate a water break).
  • Menstrual-like cramps in the lower abdomen can come and go or be continuous.
  • Low and faint back pain below the waist that may come and go or be constant.
  • Pressure in the abdomen or pelvis.
  • Abdominal cramps may occur.
  • Increase or change in vaginal discharge.

What can cause premature labor?

Doctors sometimes can't figure out why labor starts so early. There are factors that can cause premature birth, including:

  • Infection:  Infection of the pregnant woman with infections of the mouth (such as gum disease), vagina, uterus and kidneys.
  • Problems with the uterus or cervix: If you have had surgery on the uterus or cervix, have uterine fibroids, or have a uterine abnormality (such as a bicornuate uterus or a separated uterus), you may have higher odds of delivering a premature baby.
  • Stress: Chronic, high-level stress can cause labor to start early.
  • Pregnancy with twins, triplets and more: Pregnancy with more than one baby causes the uterus to expand further, which can cause labor to start early. The more babies you carry, the higher your risk of premature birth.
  • Genetic factors: The risk of preterm birth is higher if your mother or sister goes into labor early, or if you have a premature baby. Doctors aren't sure why, but being black also increases a woman's chances of giving birth prematurely.
  • overweight, underweight, or poor nutrition increases your chance of having a premature baby.
  • A very short time (less than 18 months) between pregnancies.
  • Smoking, drug or alcohol abuse.

What can I do to prevent premature birth?

Prenatal care is important in discovering the problems and lifestyle factors that can increase the risks of preterm labor and delivery.

There are ways that can help prevent preterm labor, including:

  • Eat a balanced diet containing iron and folic acid.
  • Reduce your stress levels: try yoga, meditation, get active, support groups, and work-life balance.
  • Lose weight to avoid obesity. If you are underweight, gain weight.
  • Leave a gap of at least 18 months between pregnancies.
  • Do not drink alcohol while trying to conceive and during pregnancy.
  • Don't use drugs on the streets and avoid misusing prescription drugs
  • Avoid tobacco, smoking, e-cigarettes and second-hand smoke.
  • avoid misusing prescription drugs.

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