Week 27 - Preterm Labor

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Hello. This is Dr. Mauldin. You are now in your 27th week of pregnancy.
The length of pregnancy is 40 weeks. For most patients, their labor starts between 37 and 42 weeks gestation. When labor begins prior to 37 weeks, it is called preterm labor. About 1 of every 10 babies born in the United States is born preterm.
We try very hard to prevent preterm deliveries because growth and development in the last part of pregnancy are very important to your baby’s health. The earlier the baby is born, the greater the chance that he or she will have some health problems. When we talk about these problems, we mean that these babies are more likely to have problems with their eye-sight, their hearing, their breathing… or perhaps their ability to walk well or even their mental capabilities.
If preterm labor is found early enough, it can often be stopped or slowed down. At some gestational ages, even preventing delivery for several days can be very beneficial to the baby.
Preterm labor occurs when you are having regular uterine contractions and your cervix changes. If your contractions occur 4 times every 15 minutes or you have 6 contractions in an hour, you should call your health care provider right away. You may also notice a change in your vaginal discharge or have a constant low dull backache.
If you are found to be in preterm labor, you may be offered some medicine to try to stop the contractions. You may also be offered 2 doses of corticosteroid injections – which will cross the placenta and help the baby’s lungs do better in case she is delivered. Most patients with preterm labor will remain in the hospital for at least 1-3 days if they do not deliver. When preterm labor patients go home, it is recommended that their activity level decreases dramatically. Many patients must remain on bed rest until much later in the pregnancy.
The exact causes of preterm labor are not known. But, remember there are things you can do to have a healthy pregnancy. Get regular prenatal care, eat healthy foods and do not skip meals. Be alert to signs of preterm labor and follow your doctor’s advice.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about any questions that you have.
I’ll talk to you next week.

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