Most moms expect to complete pregnancy around their due date. So what if you go into labor long before baby’s expected birthday? Preterm labor is defined as babies born before 37 weeks gestation. Thiscan be a scary and unpredictable time in your pregnancy, but there are things you can do, questions you can ask, and procedures that may help you and your healthcare provider develop the best plan of care for you and your baby.
Questions You Can Ask Your Healthcare Team
- What may be causing preterm labor in my pregnancy? Every mother’s pregnancy history, risk factors, and other health concerns can differ.
- What activities can I safely do during my pregnancy if I’m at risk for preterm labor?
- Is my job putting me at risk for preterm labor? Let your healthcare provider know what you do for a living, and ask if your job is potentially putting additional strain on your pregnant body? Some jobs are considered strenuous enough to be considered high energy exercise. For example, are you lifting objects all day? Standing on your feet with only a few breaks? This type of work may cause a birthing mother to have Braxton Hicks contractions or other signs and symptoms of preterm labor.
- Are there tests we can perform to determine my risks for preterm labor? For example, an ultrasound of the cervical length and/or a Rapid Fetal Fibronectin test can assist your providers with determining your risks. Ask what a shortened cervical length or fFN test result can mean for your pregnancy.
Help Prevent Preterm Labor
Know the signs and symptoms of preterm labor so you can notify your healthcare team right away if you experience any of them:
- Contractions (your abdomen tightens like a fist) every 10 minutes or more often
- Change in vaginal discharge (leaking fluid or bleeding from your vagina)
- Pelvic pressure (feeling that your baby is pushing down)
- Low, dull backache
- Cramps that feel like your period
- Abdominal cramps, with or without diarrhea
Fetal Fibronectin Testing
Fetal fibronectin is a glycoprotein that functions like a glue to hold the baby to the uterus during development. fFN in your vaginal discharge is one of the most powerful predictors of preterm birth. A swab test can be done between 22-34 weeks gestation.
- Most patients (80%) will test negative
- A negative result means that you have less than 1% chance of giving birth in the next 2 weeks
- A positive result doesn’t mean you’re in preterm labor, but it may signal you’re at risk for labor
- The test can be repeated every 2 weeks to monitor your ongoing risk
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