When you're pregnant, carrying a baby to term is the name of the game. But with things like Braxton Hicks, hypertension, and a slew of other annoying (albeit worrisome) symptoms and potential complications in the way, that "game" isn't always easy. It's not uncommon for labor to start earlier than it should, so it's worth wondering whether or not you can you safely prevent premature birth from happening. So with that in mind, here's how to stop labor from happening, according to experts who know the pregnancy, labor, and delivery game better than most.
While a "normal" pregnancy duration is 40 weeks, The American Pregnancy Association (APA) cites that 12 percent of women go into premature labor. The term "premature" is labor that happens at or before 37 weeks of gestation, when regular contractions force the cervix open. The APA goes on to add that while a specific cause of premature labor is unknown and/or unidentifiable, there are some things pregnant women can do to help prevent the onset of premature labor.
The first step any expecting woman can make, of course, is to know the warning signs. The APA says if you're having more than five contractions in an hour, you're leaking fluids, or you're experiencing regular cramping, backache, or pelvic pressure, you should contact your doctor immediately. In the event contractions are infrequent, or irregular, it may only be Braxton Hicks (which isn't anything to worry about and will subside on their own).
The APA also warns that some mothers may be more at risk of experiencing premature labor than others. Women that are pregnant with multiples, those who've had premature births previously, or women who've experience uterine or cervix abnormalities may have an increased chance of giving birth early. There are also other factors to consider when assessing your chance of giving birth prematurely, ranging from infections to stress or lifestyle, so it's important to check with your doctor about your specific level of risk and making life choices that can substantially reduce the odds.
What if you're already in preterm labor — can you actually stop it once it's started? The simplest answer is, well, not really. Labor can, of course, be delayed, usually under the professional guidance of your trusted doctor and/or medical team. An OB-GYN, for example, may administer or prescribe something to slow the contractions or get them to lull. Parents says tocolytics, drugs that suppress contractions, are commonly used to stall birth, as well as corticosteroids to get a baby's lungs in a healthier state to prepare for their inevitable premature delivery. The most important reason for the aforementioned medical interventions is to delay premature birth in the hopes baby will be prepared to live outside the womb (even if some assistance is required, usually in the form of a NICU stay).
The March of Dimes has a comprehensive list of doctor-prescribed medicines to stop labor from happening before it should. The March of Dimes also makes a point of telling pregnant women that there may be side effects for both mom and baby, as the result of the medications administered in the hopes of stalling and/or avoiding premature labor. In the end, though, these drugs are meant to help the baby and delay a premature birth.
Every woman is different, and no two pregnancies are the same, so when in doubt, talk to your doctor.