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When 'Labor Day' Comes Early

Premature Births

The Home-Monitoring Approach continued...

"You use a thermometer to take someone's temperature to see if they have a fever, and if they do, you have to treat them because the thermometer won't cure the fever," he says. "The same is true with home uterine monitoring. It's a diagnostic tool, not a therapeutic tool."

Janet Bleyl is an advocate of home uterine activity monitoring. "We have thousands of women who have known early on they're having preterm labor because of home monitoring," says Bleyl, founder and president of the Triplet Connection, a Stockton, Calif.-based nonprofit group for families who have had or who are expecting triplets or more.

"We have seen lots of patients in preterm labor who, due to drugs and aggressive treatment, have prolonged their pregnancy from weeks to months," she tells WebMD.

Because of the insidious nature of premature labor, "women who find themselves in it are unable to detect it themselves, which is why home monitoring can be so important and useful," she says.

What to Watch For

Women should be on the lookout for:

  • Mild uterine contractions
  • Low back pain or pelvic heaviness
  • Increased pink or brown vaginal discharge or vaginal discharge with foul odor

"Realize that preterm labor is not painful," Bleyl says. "Most are watching for painful contractions, but if they are in a high-risk situation even minor contractions are big news and need to be checked out. Most often it can be stopped or helped if doctors intervene early enough.

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