Premature labour explained.
When is considered premature labour?
If labour begins between 22 and 28 weeks of pregnancy this is known as very premature labour. This is not nearly as common as less than one in 100 babies arrives this early.
How does premature labour happen?
Most cases of premature labour begin with the start of regular contractions, waters breaking or a ‘show’. However, in some cases babies are deliberately delivered early because there are concerns about the health of the mother and/or the baby. When this happens labour is induced or the baby is born by Caesarean section.
So, what causes premature labour?
Often the cause of premature labour remains unknown. However, there are some factors that are thought to increase the risk. These include:
♦ If your baby needs to go into a neonatal unit you will be encouraged to spend as much time as you can with them. Breast milk is very important for premature babies and you will be offered all the help and support you need to produce enough milk for your baby’s needs.
♦ Waters breaking early
♦ A previous premature birth
♦ A previous late miscarriage (after 14 weeks of pregnancy)
♦ An abnormally shaped womb or a cervical weakness
♦ Being a smoker taking drugs
♦ Being overweight
♦ IVF treatment♦ If you are expecting more than one baby
♦ A course of two or four steroid injections over 24-48 hours to help reduce the chance of your baby having problems.
♦ Antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection if your water’s have broken.
♦ The chance to talk to one of the neonatal team about the care your baby will receive.
♦ If you are less than 30 weeks pregnant and likely to give birth within 24 hours you may be offered treatment with magnesium sulphate through a drip to help reduce the chance of complications for your baby.
What happens when premature labour begins?
You will need to contact your maternity unit or midwife straight away so that labour can be confirmed and your baby can be checked. The start of labour is usually diagnosed by a vaginal examination to see if the cervix is changing.
If labour is suspected, you will be advised to stay in hospital where you will be offered:
If your waters haven’t broken and there are no concerns about you or your baby you may be offered medication to try and delay labour. This can suppress your contractions long enough for you to complete the course of steroids or to be transferred to a hospital that offers specialist care.
What will happen to your baby?
Babies that are born early have an increased risk of health problems, especially with breathing, feeding and infection. The earlier your baby is born the more likely they are to have these problems. This means that your baby may need to be transferred to a specialist neonatal unit as soon as they are born.
Most premature babies survive and only a few have long-term health problems.
However, very premature babies, born before 24 weeks, have less chance of survival, and those that do survive often have serious health problems.
SRC: Premature Labor
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