Premature Labor: Premature Birth and Severe Prematurity

premature labor

In most cases, a pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. However, certain complications can arise which can cause the early signs of labor to manifest and possibly, the premature delivery of a child.

Preterm or premature labor occurs when a woman begins to experience contractions and the signs of labor following the 20th week of pregnancy and more than three weeks before full term delivery. If your baby didn’t receive the proper and immediate medical attention necessary for a premature birth, Stern Law, PLLC can pursue compensation on your family’s behalf. Please call us at (800) 462-5772 for a free case evaluation.

What are the signs and symptoms of preterm labor?

There are a number of warning signs and symptoms associated with preterm labor, such as:

  • Uterine contractions that occur every ten minutes or less
  • A tightening sensation in the pelvic area that remains constant or comes and goes
  • A dull backache that does not improve when changing positions or attempting other comforting measures
  • Leaking amniotic fluid
  • A thick, mucous-like vaginal discharge
  • Your water breaks
  • More than five contractions per hour
  • Regular, painful and repeated contractions that come closer together and intensify as time progresses
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Spotting or bleeding
  • Pressure in the pelvis, groin and inner thighs

If you experience these symptoms while pregnant, it’s important to know what to do in the event of premature labor and when to seek professional help.

What are the causes and risk factors associated with preterm labor?

There are a number of causes and risk factors that lead to preterm labor, such as:

  • Gestational hypertension
  • A history of placental abruption or placenta previa
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Eclampsia/preeclampsia
  • A short umbilical cord
  • A previous Cesarean section
  • Maternal infection
  • Premature water break
  • An overabundance of amniotic fluid
  • Bleeding early on in pregnancy
  • Acute trauma, such as a car accident, assault or blow to the abdomen
  • Excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco, or drug use (such as cocaine and methamphetamines) during pregnancy
  • Multiple births
  • Advanced maternal age
  • Severe emotional and/or physical stress
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Abnormal shape of the uterus and/or cervix
  • A woman who has had numerous pregnancies
  • Uterine abnormalities
  • The presence of fibroids
  • Certain birth defects
  • Maternal obesity or a family history of obesity

What are the complications of preterm labor?

Many women who experience preterm labor receive the appropriate treatment necessary to allow them to deliver near or at full term. Sometimes however, preterm labor cannot be stopped or, in some cases, a maternal infection or other type of complication may require that the child be immediately delivered. If a child is born prematurely, this could potentially cause a number of health concerns such as:

  • Low birth weight
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Underdeveloped organs’
  • Impaired vision or hearing
  • Developmental and behavioral problems.

Overall, the risks associated with preterm labor depend upon how early a child is born (i.e., babies born before 32 weeks are most vulnerable to complications).

How is preterm labor diagnosed?

A competent medical professional will monitor and record your signs and symptoms at their onset in order to determine the extent of the underlying problem. If you happen to be experiencing contractions that are regular and painful, and your cervix has begun to soften, thin out and dilate before 37 weeks of pregnancy, you will likely be experiencing preterm labor.

Overall, the following are the tests and procedures necessary to diagnose a case of preterm labor:

  • Pelvic exam – A doctor or other medical professional will examine the firmness or tenderness of your uterus as well as your child’s size and position in the womb. He or she will also take a look at your cervix in order to determine whether it has begun to dilate.
  • Ultrasound – This procedure is helpful in measuring the length of your cervix as well as in examining your baby’s size, weight, and position within the womb. Your medical professional should repeat this procedure one or more times to measure the progress of your pregnancy should preterm labor become a concern.
  • Uterine and fetal monitoring – Your obstetric specialist may also use a uterine and fetal monitor to check on the status of your contractions as well as the rate of your child’s heartbeat.
  • Amniocentesis – This is a procedure where a syringe is inserted into the uterus in order to extract a sample of the amniotic fluid that surrounds and protects a growing fetus. This procedure is typically performed after the 15th week of pregnancy, which is able to determine your child’s lung maturity. This technique is also able to detect whether you have an infection of the amniotic fluid which could be causing your premature labor.

If your doctor failed to provide you with the care necessary to prevent preterm labor and you or your child suffered injury, it’s important to know your legal options. Please call Stern Law, PLLC for free (800) 462-5772 to talk to an attorney about your case.

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