Premature Labor: Knowledge is Prevention
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Premature labor is a global problem, which are often found among older pregnant women, more risk of infection, and other factors. These can be prevented if expectant mothers know the risk andd take good care of their unborn child so that they can come to full term.
Expectant Mothers at Risk of Premature Labor
- Mothers who did not have a health check up or did not know they have pre-existing health condition. All expectant mothers should get a check up to rule out risks and prevent risk as standard.
- Mothers who have pre-existing health condition or risk should assess whether it will affect the fetus or not. Determine whether medications should be adjusted during pregnancy and prepare for birth as suitable.
- Mothers who have uterine or cervical conditions, such as fibrosis or endometriosis, including previous cervical surgery are at higher risk of premature labor.
- Mothers who are at risk of placental abnormalities or fetal risk, such as placenta previa, placental abruption, or pre-eclampsia, need a multidisciplinary team of medical specialists to plan for the birth. Most will require a C-section for the safety of mother and child.
- Some mothers may have a previous history of premature birth. They will have a higher risk of premature birth for their subsequent babies as well. Therefore, please consult your physician immediately to get proper medication and equipment to prevent premature birth per the doctor’s recommendation.
Pre-existing Conditions in Expectant Mothers
Pre-existing conditions that lead to fetal risks are related to metabolic syndromes, such as high blood pressure, obesity, and gestational diabetes. Other conditions that are less common includes breast cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian tumor, SLE, thyroid condition, gastrointestinal conditions, or respiratory abnormalities, etc. If expectant mothers have pre-existing health condition, they should be under the care of OB/GYN and MFM specialists.
Abnormal Fetal Heart Rate
Usually, the fetus will constantly move. Normal fetus will have a consistent heart rate of 110 – 160 beats per minute. The autonomous nervous system is also contributing to the heart rate. If the fetus suffers from lack of oxygen, abnormal development, or certain types of abnormality, the central nervous system will slow down such that the fetal heart rate is reduced. If expectant mothers noticed that the baby is not moving so much, it might be best to have a check up as soon as possible.
Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM)
MFM or Maternal-fetal medicine specialists are physicians who specialized in maternal and fetus prior to birth. They are integral for expectant mothers to help diagnose and follow up on any abnormality together with an OB/GYN throughout the pregnancy to perform risk assessment and offer immediate care.
Ultrasound and Expectant Mothers
An ultrasound can provide high resolution images to help diagnose and screen for risks as well as detect fetal abnormalities. Physicians may consider other diagnostic tools, such as an amniocentesis, umbilical cord blood drawn to check for chromosomal abnormalities, genetic disorders, or inherited conditions, or infections, etc. Contrary to believe, an ultrasound is not harmful to the fetus. It uses a high frequency soundwave, which is different for X-rays that may affect the fetus.
An amniocentesis can reveal chromosomal abnormalities, thalassemia trait, or even fetal infection. It can also be used to treat certain conditions, such as injection thyroid into the amniotic fluid to treat hypothyroid condition in the fetus.
Caring for Expectant Mothers at Risk of Premature Birth
If expectant mothers are at risk of premature birth, they will need close supervision:
- Assessment by OB/GYN and MFM specialist more often or about every 1 – 2 weeks during pregnancy
- Follow doctor’s recommendation strictly
- Reduce the risk factors, such as avoid stress, overworking, walking, or standing for prolonged period. Get plenty of rest, choose suitable exercise, and avoid traveling to reduce the risk of infection.
Proper exercise for Easy Labor
Exercise will help expectant mothers reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia and diabetes, while improving heart and lung function. Especially of the expectant mother plan for natural child birth, which requires heart and lung function to push. So expectant mothers should exercise regularly.
Guidelines for proper exercise include:
- Do not overdo it. Exert enough energy so that you can still talk to someone close to you. Strenuous exercise may lead to hypoxia for the fetus.
- Focus on upper body strength. Lower body exercise may lead to premature labor
- Exercise in a well-ventilated and temperature-controlled room, not too warm as heat can trigger heart arrhythmia in your baby and cause pre-mature labor.
- Sip water regularly during exercise. If expectant mother experience dehydration, the fetus will suffer as well.
- Women who had weight training or practiced yoga before conception, once pregnant, will feel like they are losing their balance as the fetus grows.
All expectant mothers will experience lots of changes during each trimester. It is important to choose the right hospital that meets international standards and has a team of specialists. Follow your physician’s recommendation and attend follow-up appointments regularly as well as take special care until your bundle of joy arrives. By following these easy steps, mother and child will be healthy.