Premature Labor

Premature labor is medically defined as the onset of labor before 37 weeks. On average, 5-10% of births are premature. Some causes of the early onset of labor are an infection, trauma, injury, premature membrane rupture, hemorrhage, placenta previa (placenta grows in the lowest part of the uterus and covers the cervix) and abrutio placenta (placenta detaches from the uterine wall prior to delivery). In some cases, the death of the infant will occur due to the immaturity of the circulatory and/or respiratory systems or issues with thermoregulation.

It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of premature labor and what to do when and if the situation arises. Some signs and symptoms include:

  • Dull, low back pain that is new, or different than previous pain
  • Menstrual-like cramps
  • Pressure in the pelvis
  • Intestinal cramping, with or without diarrhea
  • Change or increase in vaginal discharge
  • Ruptured membranes
  • Regular contractions that persist for an hour (either painful or painless)

If you suspect that you have gone into premature labor, ALWAYS alert your Birth Care Provider (OB/GYN, Midwife, etc. )

If premature labor does occur, here are a few suggestions that may help to prevent and slow the early onset of labor:

  • Avoid dehydration! As the amount of fluid in the mother’s system decreases, the concentration of Oxytocin will increase and will stimulate contractions
  • If the membranes rupture, have the mother check for the presence of a prolapsed cord. If she can feel the cord, wrap it in a warm towel and CALL 911!
  • Allow the body to absorb more water, to decrease the concentration of Oxytocin by submerging the mother in a bath of water up to the neck
  • Have the mother lay down and invert her pelvis while applying gentle pressure to the cervix to reduce fetal pressure
  • If drugs are administered, reassure the mother, try to alleviate her fears and encourage her to comfort the baby as well
False Labor True Labor
Contractions stop Contractions progress
Contractions are short Contractions increase in duration
Contractions remain irregular Contractions become regular
Walking has no effect on contractions Walking increases the intensity of contractions
Contractions are not intense Contractions increase with intensity
Contractions are felt in the lowest part of the uterus Contractions are felt in the upper part of the uterus
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