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Health & Pregnancy

Premature Labor

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How to Check for Contractions

Checking for contractions is a key way of spotting early labor.

  1. Place your fingertips on your abdomen.
  2. If you feel your uterus tightening and softening, that’s a contraction.
  3. Time your contractions. Write down the time when a contraction starts, and write down the time at the start of the next contraction.
  4. Try to stop the contractions. Get off your feet. Change your position. Relax. Drink two or three glasses of water.
  5. Call your doctor or midwife if you continue to have contractions every 10 minutes or more often, if any of your symptoms get worse, or if you have pain that’s severe and doesn’t go away.

Keep in mind that many women have harmless false labor called Braxton Hicks contractions. These are usually erratic, don't get closer together, and stop when you move around or rest. They are not part of labor. If you're not sure about the type of contractions you’re feeling, get medical advice.

If You Need to Go to the Hospital

If your doctor or midwife thinks you're going into premature labor, you probably need to go to the hospital. Once you arrive, a doctor, midwife, or nurse will:

  • Ask about your medical history, including medicines you’ve been taking during pregnancy.
  • Check your pulse, blood pressure, and temperature.
  • Put a monitor on your belly to check your baby's heart rate and your contractions.
  • Swab for fetal fibronectin, which helps predict the risk of delivering early.
  • Check your cervix to see if it is opening.

If you are diagnosed with premature labor, you may need treatment, which may include:

  • IV fluids
  • Medicine to relax your uterus and stop labor
  • Medicine to speed up the development of your baby's lungs
  • Antibiotics
  • Being admitted to the hospital

If your labor has kept up and can’t be stopped, your doctor or midwife will get ready to deliver your baby.

If doctors say you’re not in premature labor, you can go home. Despite the popular belief, bed rest doesn't seem to help prevent preterm birth and has risks of its own.

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