15 Things A Doctor Might Do If Mom Is At Risk For Pre-Term Labor

Labor. Just the word itself sounds kind of harsh and awesome and well, challenging. We all know that having a baby is not easy. For some it goes more quickly than for others, but nevertheless, it is no walk in the park. But what about for women that have a difficult pregnancy on top of everything else? Well, she deserves a whole lot more support and assurance that all will be well.

This is not easy, particularly if everyone she knows had a peachy pregnancy and delivery. Lots of thoughts could go through her head like, why am I having problems? Is there something wrong with me? Is there something wrong with my baby? Sometimes there is something she cannot physically alter in her body that makes pregnancy and birth difficult and associated with risks. Sometimes there are issues with her baby/babies. Neither of these things are her fault. They are part of her biological makeup, and she needs to adjust and go with the flow taking it one day at a time. This is not easy.

Today however, with great advanced medical technology, she and her baby can have a safe and easier time throughout the pregnancy and delivery process. Once her pregnancy has been finalized at the doctor’s office, the next thing that will happen is that a doctor will determine hers and her baby’s health. He or she will look at several elements to make sure Mom and baby get the best possible care ever during the pregnancy.

They will specifically see if she is at risk for pre-term labor, something that is dangerous for her and baby. What would they do if they found any risk factors at all? Here are 15 things a doctor may do if a woman is at risk for pre-term labor:

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15 Time For A Transfer

Doctors and all medical care practitioners are experienced enough that if they spot any problems in a woman’s pregnancy early on, whether on her end, baby’s or both, they will recommend she seek out a high-risk pregnancy health care professional. This individual can best guide the woman to make the best and safest decisions so that baby can be born in a healthy and timely manner. They will take physical measurements of her body, do blood and urine tests routinely, and ask lots of questions. Something will show up on paper to point them in the direction of the woman needing more or less hands-on doctors’ visits. If a woman is worried as well, it is good that she informs herself if she could be at risk for preterm labor. It does occur in about 12% of deliveries.

14 Start The Countdown

Yes, a woman herself can check if she is having contractions earlier on in her pregnancy when they are not supposed to be happening. This would be defined as any time before the 37th week of pregnancy. At this point, the baby is not fully developed and it is dangerous for them to be born as there will inevitably be complications. How she could monitor her contractions is by using her fingertips to feel if her uterus is tightening and softening. She will feel her abdomen grow hard during a contraction and her body will feel hard all over. But as baby grows her abdomen may become firmer in one area then soft again. If she has five or more in an hour, chances are she is on her way to labor.

13 Dig Up The Past

The doctor will also ask her about her medical history in the hopes of knowing as soon as possible to look for anything that could be problematic. What are some signs that could indicate problems with pre-term labor? Lifestyle ones are little or no prenatal care, smoking, drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs, domestic violence, lack of social support, high levels of stress, low income and long working hours where she is standing for extended periods. Medical risk factors would be things like recurring bladder or kidney infections, urinary tract infections, unexplained vaginal bleeding, high blood pressure or diabetes or a clotting disorder. This is why it is good that the doctor gets a full picture of her overall health so he/she knows how best to proceed so that she is healthy.

12 Heart Check

Checking a woman’s pulse who is pregnant is done to make sure her heart rate and breathing are normal. Any kind of inconsistencies or breathing issues, will be taken seriously and monitored very closely from then on. Along with the medical history taken, her team will know how best to care for her and her baby during pregnancy and minimize the chance of her going into preterm labor. If she is experiencing dizziness, bleeding or any other kinds of irregularities, her best bet is to go to the hospital straight away and get immediate medical care. Chances are though, her pulse will be taken as with standard prenatal visits. Any irregularity will be closely monitored and she will hopefully not have any stressful episodes later on. Again, any concerns need to be reported as soon as possible to her doctor and medical team.

11 Keep The Stress Low

Her blood pressure will be monitored consistently at every prenatal visit. What is looked at is a blood pressure that is high. Whether she already had hypertension before becoming pregnant or is only experiencing it after pregnancy, doctors take this very seriously. It could be a sign of pre-eclampsia. This is a high pressure that only happens during pregnancy. A woman is more likely to develop this if she already have chronic hypertension, but not necessarily so. If she has pre-eclampsia she is at risk for developing many health problems as is baby. Her doctor in this case may recommend inducing her before her due date. This would be to prevent future pregnancy complications. He/she may also recommend a cesarean birth. Whatever measures are taken, she needs to remember it is for hers and her baby’s safety always.

10 Take A Reading

The doctor will also be checking her temperature to make sure all is normal on that front. If she is running a fever or body temp is too cold that could signal problems. If she notices a rise in her BBT (Basal Body Temperature) and begins to feel ill, she needs to call her doctor right away. Sometimes the rise is perfectly innocent and due to changes in exercise regimes, caffeinated drinks or hot humid weather. But if these factors are not present, she should speak to her medical team as something else could be going on. She could also practice yoga which helps ease stress. What she needs to be particularly concerned with are symptoms such as joint pain and rashes. They could be signs of parvovirus toxoplasma and cytomegalovirus (CMV). These illnesses can be one of the major causes of congenital deformities. She should also get her annual flu vaccine.

9 No Bedrest

Contrary to what most people think, a woman is hardly ever told to go on bed rest anymore if there is a danger of preterm labor. It has actually been proven to sometimes cause more problems with circulation and other issues. This is controversial however, as sometimes it is a last resort if mobility could really be a factor in a woman going into labor early due to many reasons. Age, the state of the woman’s health, and the state of her baby also play a role in a doctor’s decision to order bed rest. Still, recently it has been seen that with all the data reviewed on recommending bed rest, there is no conclusive evidence to justify its use. The American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine have all concluded that bed rest does not prevent preterm birth. Some research even pointed to it being more of a risk for early delivery.

8 Close Eyes On Baby

Another way doctors monitor any abnormalities in baby which could lead to preterm labor is to place a monitor on the woman’s abdomen to check the baby’s heart rate. This is something a woman should definitely trust to her medical care practitioner. Though there are home kits on the market, it is difficult to interpret the data without proper training and expertise. Things a woman’s doctor will look for (abnormalities) are if her baby’s heart rate is outside the normal range of less than 120 beats per minute or a heart rate of greater than 160 beats per minute. This would be in the later stage of pregnancy. They would do a stress test for baby and make sure the rate increases by 15 beats per minute and during contractions that baby’s heart rate does not go below its baseline rate.

7 Swab It

The Fetal Fibronectin Test (FIN) is an effective test done if it is suspected that she could go into preterm labor. A negative test will basically tell a woman that she is not in pre-term labor and whatever symptoms she was having was based on other issues. A positive result is less useful however. It only tells doctors that a woman has a higher risk of going into labor and that they need to monitor her more closely. This will help the doctor determine what to do next. It is a useful test in some ways to rule things out, but more investigations will need to be done to see where the woman is at in her pregnancy journey. She need not worry. The doctor is constantly following up to make sure he/she can provide her with the most appropriate medical care as possible.

6 Keep All Exits Closed

Another way for a doctor to see if a woman is truly about to go in labor or is in labor, is if it shows up on an ultrasound. He/she may order an ultrasound to see whether her cervix is thinning out. If she is in true labor the cervix will do what is calling effacing and dilating, basically opening up so baby can come out. If the doctor does not see evidence of the cervix changing in any way, the chances are good that she is not in labor. This is one of many ways they will check. The woman herself can also monitor her cervix, and if she feels any kind of pain or discomfort, this is the time for her to speak up and make her concerns known. It could make all the difference for her and her baby.

5 Pump The Fluids

This is another controversial method of helping women in danger of preterm labor. Sometimes is has been shown to be beneficial for women who are dehydrated. Dehydrated women can go into preterm labor so there is something positive that could help stop labor. However, unless women are dehydrated numerous studies have shown there is no benefit for giving them intravenous fluids. It is tried sometimes as women in preterm labor have lower amounts of fluid in their circulation. What doctors hoped was that it could slow down contractions, but from the limited information which was two studies with 228 women the results were no additional benefit in the use of hydration to prevent labor. It is good for her to conquer her thirst but little else. Now this is not usually recommended in helping stop preterm labor as it does not do much.

4 Bring A Stop To It

This medicine is called Terbutaline and Magnesium Sulfate. There are others too, but basically what all of them do, is slow or stop the process so doctors can get in and medically intervene. Tocolytics for instance often decrease the risk of delivery within 48 hours. This buys time for doctors to give other medications to help babies out in utero. More on this in the next point. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have looked into this and approved these methods making them a woman and her baby’s best chance of a safe delivery whether it is going to happen now or in the near future. The goal is to keep it from happening as far away as possible so baby has a chance to thrive and stay in utero while developing to be their strongest.

3 Kickstart Baby's Lungs

Following up from the medicine that is given to slow down or stop labor, if these drugs were not successful in delivering either outcome, and birth is happening, baby will be born premature with many health issues at the outset. This is why doctors will at this point get in with other medications like Tocolytics that can help mature the baby’s lungs before birth, according to medical guidelines. If a woman is unsure about any kind of medications, she needs to have a conversation with her doctor before the birth about the risks and benefits to make the most informed decision should she have to at the time of baby’s birth. Any kinds of weird symptoms, whether she is pregnant or not, needs to be reported to her doctor.

2 Preventative Measures

Antibiotics may also be given to the woman before and during labor to make sure there are no infections being passed on to baby. This is especially the case in a casaerian section, where there is risk for lots of infection being passed to the baby from utero. The woman needs to be sure she has been told about all the benefits and side effects possible from any antibiotic, and that it is only given in cases where there would a danger for her or baby if it would not be given. There are many different kinds of antibiotics with different kinds of classifications. She should not be alarmed as they are not all created equal, and though some can cause a possible increase in the chances of birth defects, most are safe. She needs to be speak to her medical team if she has any questions.

1 New Home Base

As a last resort, if everything else has failed in keeping baby inside her as long as possible, she will probably be admitted to the hospital as a precautionary measure. This will be done as late in the process as possible, given that it does not always make a difference in helping keep baby in utero. Still, this may be her best chance to at least slow down labor and be on the premises should baby really want to make his/her entrance that early in the game. It can be scary and stressful for the Mom-to-be, so she will need a lot of support, love, and patience from everyone around her. She needs to be reminded that she is doing all she can to ensure a healthy pregnancy. None of it is anyone’s fault.

Sources: American Pregnancy, Web MD, Web MD, New Kids Center, BabyCenter, NCBI, Livestrong

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