Premature Labor: What to Do
When a woman starts experiencing the signs and symptoms of preterm labor, it can understandably lead to a significant amount of fear and uncertainty about her own well-being and that of her baby. Proper care can prevent many complications, but the negligence of medical providers can put mother and child at risk.
If you or your baby suffered harm due to premature labor, please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800) 462-5772 for a free consultation. We have served thousands of families like yours over the course of more than three decades.
Steps you should take if you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of premature labor
You must call your doctor or medical professional right away if you have the following symptoms before your 37th week of pregnancy:
- Fluid leakage from your vagina
- Bleeding or spotting
- An increase in vaginal discharge
You should also check for contractions (by placing your fingertips on your belly which allows you to feel your uterus tightening and releasing) if you are experiencing:
- A dull backache, especially in the lower portion of your back
- Pressure in the pelvic and/or vaginal areas
- Period-like cramps
- Contractions that occur every ten minutes or less that do not subside within an hour or after changing positions
In the event that your doctor advises you to go to the hospital, he or she will:
- Check your temperature, blood pressure and pulse
- Place a fetal monitor on your belly to check your child’s heart rate as well as your contractions
- Conduct a cervical exam to determine the extent of dilation and effacement
- Administer drugs to either stop labor or hasten your child’s lung development
- Administer IV fluids
- Keep you on bed rest and monitor your progress
- Keep you in the hospital overnight or for a few days or more
How is preterm labor treated?
For some women, preterm labor can be prevented through a surgical procedure known as a cervical cerclage (should the cause of her preterm labor be due to an incompetent cervix). This involves the use of sutures to stitch the cervix closed until delivery. There are a number of different stitches used with a cerclage, which are described as follows:
- McDonald stitch – This is typically performed as a temporary measure that allows for a woman to have a normal and natural vaginal childbirth.
- Shirodkar stitch – This stitch usually follows a McDonald stitch and can either be temporary or permanent, depending upon the extent and progression of dilation.
- Abdominal and Hefner stitches – These are used when a woman’s cervix is exceptionally short, or if a weakened cervix is not determined until later in pregnancy. The Hefner stitch can be removed before delivery however, an abdominal stich cannot.
- Lash stitch – This is only used when a woman has experienced prior cervical trauma or has a uterine or cervical defect.
If you happen to be less than 34 weeks pregnant and are experiencing the signs and symptoms of preterm labor, your doctor or other healthcare professional may recommend that you be hospitalized. Additionally, he or she may give you certain medications that can either stop your preterm labor or hasten the birth of your child, which include:
- Corticosteroids – If you are between 24 and 34 weeks pregnant, your healthcare professional may recommend that you receive an injection of steroids that help speed up your baby’s lung maturity. After 34 weeks, your child’s lungs may be developed enough to sustain an early delivery.
- Tocolytics – These types of medication help stop the symptoms of preterm labor. Either administered orally or via IV, tocolytics are only able to halt preterm labor for up to seven days, as they do not address the underlying causes of this condition. However, they may provide you with enough time to allow for corticosteroids to hasten the development of your child’s lungs in the event that early delivery is inevitable. It is recommended that you speak with your healthcare professional regarding the use of tocolytics as they may be contraindicated in certain circumstances, such as if a woman has problems with her placenta.
Following your hospital stay, your doctor will likely monitor you moving forward on a more regular basis. This way, he or she can keep track of your pregnancy and act proactively to prevent or delay further signs and symptoms of preterm labor. Moreover, your doctor may recommend bed rest for the duration of your pregnancy in order to prevent preterm labor from starting again.
Can preterm labor be prevented?
Unfortunately, preterm labor is not always preventable. However, there are certain steps that can be taken in order to minimize the risks associated with the condition. These are:
- Seek regular prenatal care – Prenatal care includes having your blood sugar and blood pressure monitored.
- Keep your stress levels down – During pregnancy, it is important to avoid stress as much as possible.
- Avoid non-pasteurized foods – Milk, cheese and meats should be pasteurized and fully cooked.
- Keep your teeth and gums healthy – During your pregnancy, certain dental diseases can cause preterm labor.
- Knowing the risks and talking with your doctor about them to take the preventative measures necessary to prevent preterm labor.
- Take prenatal vitamins – Take vitamin supplements as recommended by your healthcare professional, and follow a healthy diet. Ask your doctor about recommendations for staying as active as possible during your pregnancy.
- Ask about emergencies – Ask your doula, midwife, doctor or other medical professionals questions about how they address situations such as preterm labor and delivery. Also, find out whether they are qualified and experienced in handling birthing complications.
If malpractice resulted in premature labor that injured your baby, please call (800) 462-5772 for free today. Stern Law, PLLC is committed to helping victims of birth injury, and we would be pleased to hear the details of your case.