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What are the warning signs of preterm labor?

Causes and prevention of premature birth

Like regular labor, signs of early labor are— Contractions the abdomen tightens like a fist every 10 minutes or more often Change in vaginal discharge a significant increase in the amount of discharge or leaking fluid or bleeding from the vagina Pelvic pressure—the feeling that the baby is pushing down Low, dull backache Cramps that feel like a menstrual period Abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea. Are some women more likely than others to deliver early? Can anything be done to prevent a preterm birth? These steps are to— Quit smoking.

What is my risk of having a preterm birth? Public Health Grand Rounds. Related Links. Is It Worth It? Premature Babies external icon — Information about health problems among and care of premature babies from the March of Dimes. Get E-mail Updates. To receive email updates about this page, enter your email address: Email Address.

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Links with this icon indicate that you are leaving the CDC website. Linking to a non-federal website does not constitute an endorsement by CDC or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the website. You will be subject to the destination website's privacy policy when you follow the link. Seven thousand nine hundred fifty-four cases were included in our study and were excluded as they did not fall within the inclusion criteria.

How to prevent preterm labor

The preterm cases were 7. Demographic and clinical characteristics of the preterm cohort and the term controls are shown in Table 1. The rate of preterm birth in our Institution has shown a relatively stable or a slightly decreasing trend from 7. The majority of all preterm births were due to infants born late preterm, No other correlations were found. In our observational and retrospective Cohort study of pregnant women admitted to an Obstetric Department in Southern Italy, the incidence of preterm birth was 7.

The rate of preterm birth decreased from 7. However, the value remains high, considering that preterm birth is associated with most of the pregnancy-related mortality and and short and long-term disability [ 2 ]. The slightly decreasing rate of PTB could be, partially, explained with the utmost attention in the prevention of this condition based on the known risk factors. Among these risk factors, history of PTB and short CL are considered the most important predictive factors [ 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 ].

Particularly, a short cervix in the second trimester i. In our analysis, we only included data on risk factors, which were clearly reported in all clinical records or significantly present in the folders. Many of these risk factors could be identified with a good medical history and also treated, leading to an improvement of the risk at the beginning of pregnancy.

In our study, particular attention has been given to CL measurement. This data, confirming previous studies [ 23 ], assumes that cervical length helps to identify better the case at risk for early and very early PTB. Probably, in late preterm cases, other risk factors should be also considered, such as maternal disease i.

Premature Birth Story: The Robb Family

Our findings suggest a universal cervical screening i. The CL measurement could be taken during the midtrimester ultrasound screening by all obstetric ultrasonographers who have received appropriate training. Currently, the cervical measurement is performed only in women with a higher risk of preterm birth or with symptoms of preterm labour to reduce hospitalization for tocolysis [ 28 , 29 ], in women who undergo cervical cerclage or in twin pregnancies [ 28 ].

Data on the utility of the cervical length measurement is reported in many papers [ 23 , 25 , 28 , 29 , 30 , 31 ] but, according to the guidelines of the Italian Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynaecology SIEOG , the use of ultrasound for the evaluation of the uterine cervix in a low-risk population is not supported by sufficient scientific evidence [ 28 ].

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Cervical screening is one tool that can be utilized to identify women at increased risk in order to allow for interventions to prevent, delay, or prepare for preterm births, without the need to undergo to biochemical testing for specific markers for preterm labour. Many authors have questioned if universal midtrimester transvaginal CL screening meets the criteria outlined by the WHO of an adequate screening test [ 34 ]. Some authors [ 35 , 36 ] concluded that this screening for women with a singleton gestation, followed by treatment with vaginal progesterone for those with a short cervix, meets all 10 criteria outlined by the WHO for endorsing the implementation of a screening test in clinical medicine [ 34 ].

Also the recent Italian guidelines of the Confalonieri Ragonese Foundation recommend performing a cervical measurement during the second trimester ultrasound screening 19— We also use to administrate vaginal progesterone in all the cases at risk for a short CL. This procedure has probably contributed, together with all other preventive measures, to the slight reduction of preterm birth over the years in our Hospital.

Based on our results, we suggest prompt identification of all risk factors associated with preterm birth to apply immediate and appropriate specific interventions. We also recommend, confirming the evidence of other studies [ 26 , 38 , 39 , 40 ], a transvaginal CL measurement during the midtrimester ultrasound screening, in order to identify the women most at risk who could benefit of a progesterone therapy, without the need to undergo to furthers biochemical testing for specific markers for PTB. All these procedures could reduce the rate of PTB and the associated neonatal morbidity and mortality.

Prior uterine evacuation of pregnancy as independent risk factor for preterm birth: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. Natl Vital Stat Rep. Saigal S, Doyle LW. An overview of mortality and sequelae of preterm birth from infancy to adulthood. Annual summary of vital statistics Data comparison between pharmacological induction of labour and spontaneous delivery.

A single centre experience. Ginekol Pol. Would it be too late? A retrospective case-control analysis to evaluate maternal-fetal outcomes in advanced maternal age. Arch Gynecol Obstet. Recommended definitions, terminology and format for statistical tables related to the perinatal period and use of a new certificate for cause of perinatal deaths. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand.

I grandi prematuri. Note bioetiche. Comitato Nazionale per la Bioetica. Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri. Vincenzo Berghella. Preterm Birth: Prevention and Management. Suhag A, Berghella V. Short cervical length dilemma. Obstet Gynecol Clin N Am. The strengthening the reporting of observational studies in epidemiology STROBE statement: guidelines for reporting observational studies.

Berghella V. The cause of spontaneous preterm labor cannot be unidentified in up to half of all cases. Most preterm births occurs spontaneously but some are due to early induction of labour or caesarean birth, whether for medical or non-medical reasons. To date, there is no single test or sequence of assessment measures to accurately predict preterm birth.


Clinical, biophysical, and biochemical tests that can be used as predictors for preterm birth are:. Fetal fibronectin ; in the vaginal discharge may be measured. The presence of this protein is linked to preterm birth. If baby develops any complications, other specialized testing may be needed. Management of preterm birth incorporates the specialized care of women during pregnancy and child birth along with care of newborn preterm baby. Some women are at increased risk of preterm delivery which can be identified during their antenatal care visits, based on following factors-.

Women who are identified at risk of preterm delivery or in preterm labour should give birth at a health facility hospital where more advanced, specialized care is available for mothers and their babies. The safest time for referral to such type of hospital is when the baby is still in the womb. Once preterm labor has started, there are interventions that can prolong pregnancy and improve health outcomes and survival for the premature baby.

Interventions to prolong pregnancy include the provision of tocolytic agents that inhibit uterine contractions to suppress labor e. The other three interventions that can be provided during the pregnancy period will help in improving health outcomes of the premature baby: antenatal corticosteroids, antibiotics for prelabour premature rupture of membranes P PROM , and magnesium sulphate. Amoxicillin and clavulanic acid combination such as co-amoxiclav should be avoided in women at risk of preterm delivery because of the increased risk of neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis.

Therefore they need special care along with same care that other babies get to overcome the following challenges-. Preterm babies lose body heat more easily, which may result in to hypothermia. Hence they need extra energy and care to stay warm and grow. They should not be bathed right away. The lungs of preterm babies are not fully developed and lack surfactant a substance that helps keep the lungs expanded. Many preterm babies start breathing on their own, when they are born, but others need to be resuscitated newborn resuscitation or ventilation with a bag and mask.

If breathing problems persist, they may need additional support from a machine ventilator and extra oxygen. Sometimes, some premature babies that have started breathing are not strong enough to continue on their own and exhaust themselves and may stop breathing apnoea. Constant supervision is required for such babies. Preterm babies may need additional support for feeding as the coordinated suck and swallow reflex is not yet fully developed.

Breast milk is the best nutrition for preterm babies.

Babies should be breastfed as soon as possible after birth. Breast is best: just like full-term babies. The immune systems of preterm babies are not fully developed therefore they are more susceptible to infections.

Associated Data

If they get an infection, they have a higher risk of dying. Preterm babies are at risk of bleeding in the brain, during birth and in the first few days after birth. Lack of oxygen can also cause brain injuries. Bleeding or lack of oxygen to the brain can result in cerebral palsy, developmental delays and learning difficulties.

The condition is usually more severe in very premature babies and if they are given too-high a level of oxygen. This can result in visual impairment or blindness. Babies who have additional complications may need to be kept in neonatal intensive care units NICU. Hospitals with NICU can provide specialized care for newborn babies with serious health problems. They have special equipments and specially trained doctors and nurses who provide around-the-clock care for preterm babies, who need extra support to keep warm, to breathe and to be fed, or who are very sick.

As preterm babies and full-term babies with low birth weight need extra warmth and support for feeding, Kangaroo Mother Care is a good technique for these babies, if they do not have other serious problems breathing well with normal heart rate. It also improves bonding between mothers and babies. Risk of developing RDS is more in babies below 32 weeks of gestation. This risk can be reduced by antenatal corticosteroids injections to women at risk of preterm labor, or in preterm labor.