A normal pregnancy lasts 37 to 40 weeks. However, when you experience signs of labor between 20 and 37 weeks, it is considered preterm labor. Preterm labor, also known as premature labor, occurs in about 12 percent of all pregnancies, according to the American Pregnancy Association, but you can reduce your likelihood of experiencing early labor and delivery.
Although the causes of preterm labor are not know, you may reduce your chance of a preterm delivery by recognizing the symptoms of preterm labor and avoiding associated lifestyle risks.
Lifestyle risks can be avoided to reduce the probability of preterm labor:
Pregnant women who have certain medical risk factors may have a higher possibility of going into labor prematurely. It's even more important for women who have any of the following risk factors to learn the signs of preterm labor:
Braxton-Hicks contractions occur throughout your pregnancy as your body readies for labor. However, regular contractions work to open your cervix and get your body ready for the delivery room. Look for the following signs of labor before 37 weeks gestation:
"Although it's easy to get caught up in hectic day-to-day schedules, it's really important for moms to listen to their bodies," advises Marilyn Curl, CNM, MSN, LCCE, FACCE and president of Lamaze International. "If you sense something is off, pay close attention to any contractions or other symptoms you may be experiencing."
Think you're experiencing signs of preterm labor? The first thing to do is drink a glass of water and rest. If symptoms persist, contact your OB/GYN immediately. You may be instructed to empty your bladder, lie on your left side, avoid laying flat on your back or head to the hospital. Premature labor does not always lead to preterm delivery, so learn how to recognize preterm labor so you can known when to seek help and give your baby the best start possible.
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