When a woman experiences preterm labor, it can be a very distressing and unexpected situation. In about 3 out of 10 cases, preterm labor stops on its own. However, if it does not stop, there are treatments available to try and delay birth. These treatments can reduce the risk of complications for the baby if they are born prematurely.
Prenatal corticosteroids are one of the treatments that can be given to delay birth. These are given in two injections over a period of 24 to 48 hours. Possible side effects for the mother may include high blood sugar levels. If the mother takes insulin and receives prenatal corticosteroids, her insulin regimen may need to be adjusted.
It can be difficult to stop preterm labor, especially if the cervix has already begun to dilate. Therefore, the two main goals of treatment are to delay birth long enough to transfer the mother to a hospital that has a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and to accelerate the baby's lung development through the administration of steroids. Babies born prematurely are at greater risk of brain and other neurological complications, as well as respiratory and digestive problems. There are also treatments that can delay or stop premature birth if contractions start prematurely, before 37 weeks of gestation.
Women with a short or weak cervix (the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina) or who have already had a premature baby are more likely to start labor early. Although the specific causes of preterm birth are not yet known, certain factors may increase a woman's risk of having a preterm birth. Some women with premature birth and early cervical dilation stay in bed until their pregnancy progresses. Your doctor will discuss the risk factors for preterm birth and discuss the precautions you should take.
If you test positive for group B strep or if you have a premature premature rupture of the membranes (also called PPROM), your healthcare provider can give you antibiotics to help prevent infections in you and your baby.Measuring the length of the cervix with a special transvaginal ultrasound probe can help predict the risk of giving birth prematurely. About 12% of all births occur prematurely, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). However, by knowing the symptoms and avoiding certain risk factors, a woman can reduce her chances of giving birth prematurely.When you call your healthcare provider, be sure to tell them that you are concerned that you may have started a premature birth. They will discuss with you what treatments are available to try and reverse premature labor and delay birth until it is safe for your baby.