What are corticosteroids?
Corticosteroids are drugs that cross the placenta and help speed up development of the fetus’s lungs, brain, digestive organs. Corticosteroids are most likely to help your fetus when they are given between 24 weeks of pregnancy and 34 weeks of pregnancy. They also may be given between 23 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.
What happens if my preterm labor continues?
If your preterm labor continous, how it is managed is based on what is thought to the best for your health and your fetus’s health. When there is a chance that the fetus would benefit from a delay in a delivery, certain medications may be given. These medications include corticosteroids, magnesium sulfate and tocsolytics
If I have preterm labor, will I have a preterm birth?
It is difficult for health care professionals to predict which women with preterm labor will go on to have preterm birth. Only about 1 in 10 women with preterm labor will give birth within the next 7 days. For about 3 in 10 women, preterm labor stops on its own.
How is preterm labor diagnosed?
Preterm labor can be diagnosed only when changes in the cervix are found. Your obstetrician or other health care professional may perform a pelvic exam to see if your cervix has started to change. You may need to be examined several times over a period of a few hours. Your contractions also may be monitored.
Your obstetrician or other health care professional may do certain tests to determine whether you need to be hospitalized or if you need immediate specialized care. A transvaginal ultrasound exam may be done to measure the length of your cervix. The level of a protein called fetal fibronectin in the vaginal discharge may be measured. The presenceof this protein is linked to preterm birth.
What are the signs and symptoms of preterm labor and what should I do if I have any of them?
Call your obstetrician or other health care professional right away if you notice any of these signs or symptoms:
- Change in type of vaginal discharge
- Increase in amount of discharge
- Pelvic or lower abdominal pressure
- Constant low, dull backache
- Mild abdominal cramps, with or without diarrhea
- Regular or frequent contractions or uterine tightening, often pinless
- Ruptured membranes (your water breaks with a gush or a trickle
Can anything be done to prevent birth if I am at high risk?
If you have had a prior preterm birth and you are planning another pregnancy, a prepregnancy checkup can help you get in the best possible health before you become pregnant. When you become pregnant, be sure to start prenatal care early. You may be referred to a health care professional who has expertise in managing high-risk pregnancies. In addition, you may be given certain medications or other treatment to help prevent preterm birth if you have risk factors. Treatment is given based on your individual situation and your risk factors for preterm birth.
What are risk factors for preterm birth?
Factors that increase the risk of preterm birth include the following:
- having a previous preterm birth
- having a short cervix
- short time between pregnancies
- history of certain types of surgery on the uterus or cervix
- certain pregnancy complications, such as multiple pregnancy and vaginal bleeding
- lifestyle factors such as low pregnancy weigh, smoking during pregnancy, and substance abuse during pregnancy