Pre-Term Delivery- A Message to ALL Pregnant Women

By Candace Hurley

The two most important things you need to know about preterm delivery:

  1. It can happen to you and it can happen again. If you delivered a preterm baby in an earlier pregnancy, you're at much greater risk for preterm delivery the next time around.
  2. You can reduce your risk.

It may seem unnecessary to tell a pregnant woman her “ideal” pregnancy may end in preterm delivery and the truth is that the vast majority of pregnancies (approximately 88%) will end with a healthy mother and baby. Perhaps this is why some healthcare providers are reluctant to talk to patients about the risk of preterm delivery.

It has been my experience, however, that women do not fall apart when they are given information that helps them improve their babies chances for a healthy start in life.

The fact is that that half the women who deliver before a 37-week gestation appear to be having the “ideal” pregnancy. It is unacceptable when pregnant women are not provided information and resources that can make the difference between babies requiring a little extra help following a preterm birth and babies who need long-term intensive care for life threatening complications.

What you can do to reduce risk for your baby

What do you need to know even if everything is going perfectly?

  • Know the signs and symptoms of preterm labor.
  • Know the lifestyle and behaviors that can increase the chances of developing preterm labor.
  • Know what kind of testing can be done to help identify risk
  • Know how preterm labor can be treated in time to reduce newborn complications.
  • Know the treatment available to prevent a subsequent preterm birth in your next pregnancy.

Signs and symptoms of preterm labor

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms after your 20th week of pregnancy, notify your doctor or midwife immediately. Don't wait. Don't worry others will think you're "over-reacting". For your baby's sake, it's better to let your healthcare team decide if preterm labor is developing.

Signs and Symptoms of preterm Labor

  • Regular uterine contractions or tightening sensation in stomach (often painless)
  • Continuous or intermittent menstrual-like cramps (constant or occasional)
  • Low, dull backache or cervical pressure
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Abdominal cramping, with or without diarrhea
  • Increase or change in vaginal discharge
  • A nagging feeling that something is not right

Lifestyle and behaviors that increase risk of developing preterm labor

There are many lifestyle and behavioral factors that increase a woman's risk for preterm delivery. Ask your healthcare provider to help you identify changes you can make and resources in the community that can help you succeed. Here are some of the more common contributors to risk.

  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Depression or mood disorder
  • Smoking
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Financial hardship
  • Physical or emotional abuse

Often women who have a hard time changing unhealthy situations for themselves become highly motivated to do so for the sake of the babies.

Know what kind of testing can be done to help identify risk

Fetal fibronectin (fFN) assesses your risk of preterm birth. From weeks 22 to 35 of pregnancy, detection of fFN could be a sign that your body is getting ready to go into labor prematurely.

Your medical provider will use a combination of signs and symptoms when deciding the best course of action to take in relation to your pregnancy.

Identifying and Treating Preterm Labor

The good news is that a newborn's health problems can be greatly reduced and sometimes eliminated by extending pregnancy to 37+ weeks gestation. And this is a goal high-risk mothers are reaching every single day.

In some cases preterm labor can be treated successfully if it is identified early. Treatment may include activity restriction or bed rest plus hydration and drug therapy to stop the progression of labor. Pregnant women may be given steroids to help mature the baby’s lungs if delivery appears imminent. Medical intervention may not be a woman's idea of a good time but take it from all of us at Sidelines - it can be the very best gift you ever give your child.

We have supported tens of thousands of women who delivered healthy babies before 40 weeks gestation. The reason their babies did not have serious, long lasting health problems is because their doctors were able to extend their pregnancies for weeks after preterm labor began.

If you delivered a preterm baby in an earlier pregnancy, you're at much greater risk for preterm delivery the next time around. Now there is an FDA approved treatment available. Makena (hydroxyprogesterone caproate injection) is a prescription hormone medicine (progestin) used to lower the risk of preterm birth in women who are pregnant with one baby and who have unexpectedly delivered one preterm baby (

Here's What It Comes Down To

If you are having an “ideal” pregnancy, enjoy it fully. You have every reason to be optimistic and every reason to be an informed, aware and involved patient. Since no pregnancy comes with a risk-free guarantee, your baby is counting on you to pay attention every step of the way.

©2015 Sidelines High-Risk Pregnancy Support


To help out, visit and do chores

Sidelines National Support Network (, offers information and peer support by computer and phone; e-mail or call 877-447-4754.

If you know a pregnant woman on bed rest, Sidelines National Support Network has some suggestions for ways to support her:

Do her laundry or fold clothes while you visit. Take scented lotion or shower gel. Change the sheets. Take lip balm. Call often. Send a card for no reason. Take flowers, magazines or the latest book on the best-seller list. Do the dishes. Entertain her children. Remind her how wonderful she is.

Researcher Judith Maloni of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland surveyed 89 women on bed rest to determine what support was most helpful. They praised emotional help such as visits, calls, cards and e-mail, as well as tangible help such as taking meals and library books, cleaning the house, taking children to the park and shopping for clothes or birthday gifts.

Least helpful, according to the survey: people who promise to help but don't show up, relatives who create more stress by complaining or picking fights, and people who lack understanding and don't see any problem.

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