Preterm labour is defined as the presence of uterine contractions of sufficient frequency and intensity before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Contractions cause the cervix, the lower end of the uterus to open earlier than normal. There are no procedures to detect preterm labour or birth before it occurs, but there are factors that place women at greater risk, such as some infections, a shortened cervix, or previous preterm birth. Because the foetus development has not completed, it may not be able to survive outside the womb or the internal organs will be under developed. This can lead to a number of health problems, including: low birth weight, problems in breathing because of underdeveloped lungs, greater risk for life-threatening infections, greater risk for cerebral palsy and greater risk for learning and developmental disabilities. They may be quite weak and find sucking difficulties.
Premature labour is usually not painful, but there are several warning signs and symptoms including; contractions in your uterus every 10 minutes or more often, low, dull backache that may be constant or relapsing, menstrual-like cramps or lower abdominal cramping that may feel like gas pains, with or without diarrhoea, increased pressure in pelvis or vagina, increased vaginal discharge, leaking of fluid from the vagina, vaginal bleeding or less movement or kicking by your baby.
Treating high-risk pregnant women who had a spontaneous preterm baby with a certain type of progesterone reduces the risk of another preterm delivery. Treatments include; intravenous (IV) fluids, medicine to relax your uterus and stop labour, medicine to help speed up the development of baby’s lungs. Bed rest and medications that relax the muscles in the uterus are also commonly used to try to stop preterm labour. The survival rates of premature babies have improved tremendously in India in the last few decades. They are best cared for at a Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).