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Reduce The Risk Of Preterm Labor

Labor that begins before the 38th week is considered "preterm" or "premature." Approximately 1 out of every 10 babies born in the United States is preterm. No one knows the exact cause of preterm labor, but certain situations increase the odds for it. Those include the following:

  • Preeclampsia, a form of high blood pressure that can develop in the second half of pregnancy.
  • Maternal health problems such as kidney disease, diabetes, or heart disease.
  • Multiple pregnancy. About 97% of twin pregnancies, for instance, result in preterm labor.
  • Problems with the placenta, such as placenta previa or placenta abruptio.
  • Problems with the uterus, such as structural defects, an incompetent cervix, or fibroids.
  • Past preterm labor or delivery.
  • Short intervals (less than a year) between pregnancies.
  • Being younger than 18 or older than 40 during pregnancy.
  • PPROM (Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes).
  • Other possible culprits include vaginal infections, poor nutrition, stress, depression, smoking, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Also be aware of the symptoms of preterm labor, and seek medical care right away if you have:

  • Uterine contractions, lower back pain, or pressure in your groin or upper thighs.
  • Fluid that leaks from your vagina in a trickle or a gush.
  • Spotting or vaginal bleeding.
  • A thick, mucousy discharge that's tinged with blood.
  • Abdominal cramping.
  • Severe or persistent headaches.
  • Dizziness or visual disturbances.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Frequent vomiting (more than twice a day).
  • Painful urination.
  • Yeast or other vaginal infections (yellowish or greenish discharge, itching, or a strong vaginal odor).

To reduce your risk of preterm labor, continue to follow your caregiver's advice on diet, exercise, rest, and other health matters. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any worrisome symptoms.

Review Date: 12/9/2012
Reviewed By: Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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