Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Heidi Montag Says She Could Go Into Labor Early, & She Needs All The Support She Can Get

When reality stars Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt first revealed to the world back in April that they were expecting a baby, it was pretty clear that the couple was overjoyed at the prospect of impending parenthood. Throughout the pregnancy, they've shared photo and video updates with their fans, and their anticipation has only seemed to grow the closer they've been getting to their Oct. 19 due date. But in a recent Instagram story shared by Pratt, Heidi Montag revealed that she is already dilated, despite still being about a month away from being considered full-term.

According to People, Montag's doctor determined that she is now about 1 centimeter dilated, meaning that it's possible her son's arrival may happen earlier than expected. And while the couple is remaining optimistic that she still has time to go before actually going into labor, it's likely that it wasn't the news they were hoping for. Following the appointment, Montag told her followers that her son “is coming early," before adding, "I just hope not too early.” As for Pratt? Well he had some wise words for his son: "Stay in that belly, boy!" But just in case, Montag said they'd made sure to be prepared by picking up a preemie-sized outfit. She said, “Well we had to stop by the store and I got a little preemie outfit in case he comes early.”

For many women, the last month of their pregnancies is honestly a time when they're feeling pretty uncomfortable and totally done with having a baby on board — and it's completely understandable. But the truth is that premature delivery can be a pretty big deal. According to the Mayo Clinic, a delivery is considered premature or preterm when it occurs more than three weeks ahead of the baby's due date — which means that Montag and Pratt still have at least a couple more weeks to go before they're in the clear.

According to The March Of Dimes, babies born prematurely (especially those born "very preterm" prior to 32 weeks gestation, and "extremely preterm" at or prior to 25 weeks) can run the risk of severe post-delivery complications, such as breathing difficulty from undeveloped lungs, brain hemorrhages, jaundice, heart murmurs, intestinal issues, and infections. Premature birth is also the primary reason why an infant would have to stay in the hospital after birth, most likely in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), according to KidsHealth.org.

At this point though, Montag would be considered late-preterm, and while late-preterm deliveries aren't ideal, they also aren't exactly rare: according to a 2010 study in Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology, late preterm deliveries make up about 74 percent of all preterm births. The good news is that late-preterm babies don't face the same infant mortality risks as preemies born at earlier gestations, but even a few extra weeks in the womb can make a major difference overall. The study found, for example, that compared to full-term infants, late-preterm babies are more likely to experience issues with temperature regulation (meaning they may need to be kept in an incubator), and nearly 30 percent show signs respiratory distress, meaning they may need additional breathing support. And according to Live Science, babies born between 34 and 36 weeks actually had a mortality rate that was four times higher than that of full-term infants, even despite only having a difference of a few weeks between when they were delivered.

Of course, advances in medical technology now mean that being born premature is far from being as dangerous as it once was: according to U.K.-based prematurity charity Tommy's, even babies born as early as 28 weeks gestation now have a survival rate of more than 90 percent, while babies born at 24 weeks — generally considered to be the point of fetal viability — have a survival rate of approximately 40 percent. My own twins spent nearly four months in hospital with various complications after their extremely preterm birth at 25 weeks gestation in 2012, but they are now happy, healthy 4-year-olds — as are many of the other babies we met during our NICU stay.

Hopefully though, none of this will actually be relevant to Montag and Pratt, as it's still entirely possible that Montag's pregnancy could continue until she reaches full-term. According to HealthLine, the fact that Montag is 1 centimeter dilated means that she is technically in the first stage of labor, when the cervix begins to open up and thin out (efface). But according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), preterm labor doesn't necessarily mean preterm birth — and in fact, Montag may only have about a 10 percent chance of giving birth within the next week. Even better news? In about 30 percent of cases, preterm labor can actually stop on its own.

Of course, if you're prematurely dilated, there are some important signs of impending delivery that you need to look out for. According to ACOG, they include any changes in type of vaginal discharge; feelings of pressure or cramping in the pelvis, lower abdomen, or lower back; or any uterine contractions (even if they don't actually hurt). And if your water breaks? Call your doctor pronto.

The prospect of a premature delivery isn't usually one that anyone expects or hopes for, and for first-time parents-to-be like Montag and Pratt, it can feel particularly scary. Hopefully it won't be something they will have to deal with, but if they do welcome their son early, the fact that they've at least made it this far in their pregnancy is a really positive sign. And every day that their son heeds his dad's advice and stays safely inside Montag's belly, the better.