Most pregnant women know the feeling of counting down the weeks until their due date, but for moms who are worried about going into labor prematurely, everyday of their pregnancy is a blessing. While there is no definitive way to know when your baby will be born, there are some factors that put some women at higher risk of preterm birth than others. Here are 5 signs your baby may be born premature.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), babies born before week 37 of a pregnancy are considered premature and are at higher risk for health issues, because a lot of fine tuning happens in those last weeks: It's when the baby's liver, brain, and lungs fully develop. Unfortunately, preterm births have been on the rise in recent years, noted the CDC, with one in 10 babies being born prematurely in 2016.
The good news is that, thanks to modern medicine and amazing NICU doctors and nurses, most babies born after 26 weeks survive and thrive, noted Baby Center. But if you are worried about having a preterm birth, here are a few risk factors you should know about.
You've Had a Previous Preterm Birth
Dr. Eva Martin, Ob-Gyn and founder of Elm Tree Medical, tells Romper that one of the main reasons women are considered to be high risk for a preterm birth is if they’ve had a preterm birth in a past pregnancy.
Because you have delivered prematurely before, your doctor will likely keep a closer eye on your pregnancy to make sure it is going smoothly. Martin says that your doctor may even give you vaginal progesterone suppositories. They are designed to release progesterone into your endometrium (prompting the endometrium to produce more secretions) — which helps your baby get more nutrients, while preventing you from going into early labor, according to Yale News.
You Have A Short Cervix
Martin says that women who have a short cervix are also at a higher risk for preterm birth. During your ultrasound, the ultrasonographer may measure the length of your cervix, but not all women are screened for it. “There is currently a lot of controversy in the OB-GYN community about whether all women, regardless of their individualized risk, should be screened for short cervix with a transvaginal ultrasound.” explains Martin.
When your cervix is short or weak, explained the American Pregnancy Association (APA), it can be harder for your growing baby to stay inside, so your doctor may suggest you get a progesterone suppositories or even a cervical cerclage — in which your cervix is sown shut until it's the right time for delivery.
If you are concerned, you can definitely ask your doctor for an ultrasound screening of your cervix.
You Are Carrying Multiples
Carrying more than one baby could put you at a higher risk for preterm birth, explained Baby Center, and the more babies you carry, the higher the risk. They noted that almost 60 percent of twins are born prematurely at around 35 weeks, and about 90 percent of triplet pregnancies end up preterm, lasting 29 weeks on average. If you are carrying multiples, you may need to be monitored more closely, so don't be surprised if your doctor is requesting more frequent prenatal visits.
Your body and lifestyle can play a big part in your risk for preterm birth. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant moms who smoke or do drugs are at a higher risk for delivering their baby prematurely. They also noted that women who are obese or underweight can also be at risk, so it is super important to make healthy choices during your pregnancy. If you are struggling with health or substance abuse issues, talk to your doctor about getting help or treatment, which could lead you to a healthier pregnancy and a healthier you.
Signs To Watch Out For
Whether you fall into a high risk category or not, it’s important to keep an eye out for symptoms that could indicate you are going into preterm labor. March of Dimes noted that if you are experiencing any kind of changes in your vaginal discharge, pain or pressure in your back or abdomen, cramping, back pain, contractions, or if your water breaksbefore your due date, you could be going into labor prematurely. If you are having any of these symptoms, get in touch with your doctor or head to the ER as soon as possible.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.