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Health & Pregnancy

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Preterm Labor - Topic Overview

If you think you have symptoms of preterm labor, call your doctor or certified nurse-midwife. He or she can check to see if your water has broken, if you have an infection, or if your cervix is starting to dilate.

You may also have urine and blood tests to check for problems that can cause preterm labor.

Checking the baby's heartbeat and doing an ultrasound can give your doctor or midwife a good picture of how your baby is doing. Amniotic fluid can be tested for signs that your baby's lungs have grown enough for delivery.

You may have a painless swab test for a protein in the vagina called fetal fibronectin. If the test doesn't find the protein, then you are unlikely to deliver soon. But the test can't tell for certain if you are about to have a preterm birth.

If you are in preterm labor, your doctor or certified nurse-midwife must compare the risks of early delivery with the risks of waiting to deliver. Depending on your situation, your doctor or midwife may:

  • Try to delay the birth with medicine. This may or may not work.
  • Use antibiotics to treat or prevent infection. If your amniotic sac has broken early, you have a high risk of infection and must be watched closely.
  • Give you steroid medicine to help prepare your baby's lungs for birth.
  • Treat any other medical problems causing trouble in pregnancy.
  • Allow the labor to go on because delivery is safer for the mother and baby than letting the pregnancy go on.

Learning about preterm labor:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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