Many women during their pregnancy experience uterine contraction before 37 weeks. Often Braxton Hicks contractions occur before 37 weeks, but they are painless, infrequent and irregular. This contraction subsides with change of position. Braxton Hicks contractions do not induce labor and they are not of much importance.
Normal period of pregnancy is 40 to 42 weeks. But occasionally if the woman experiences painful uterine contractions in every 10 to 12 minutes, it could be a sign of premature labor contraction. This type of painful contractions at regular interval can cause early dilatation of cervix which may ultimately lead to premature labor.
What Causes Premature Contractions In Pregnancy?
Premature contractions are more common in woman with multiple pregnancies or with a history of previous premature labor. Women with multiple fetuses are also at risk of premature labor contractions. It is also common in a woman who becomes pregnant within one year after the last full term pregnancy. It can also occur in a woman having one fetus after undergoing in vitro fertilization.
Medical conditions can also trigger premature labor contraction in a pregnant woman. Abnormality in uterus or cervix, frequent urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and Chlamydia infection, infection in vagina, high fever due to malaria can trigger premature labor contraction.
Other conditions such as high blood pressure during pregnancy, diseases of kidney, blood dyscrasias, are few other attributing factors to produce premature contractions in pregnancy.
It is also seen frequently in woman who smoke tobacco and drink alcohol. Emotional and sexual abuse, physical violence, mental stress all can disturb the balance of hormones and trigger uterine contractions before the due date.
Signs And Symptoms Of Premature Contractions
Premature contractions during pregnancy are those that occur before 37 weeks of pregnancy. They can be of two types. Infrequent and painless are called Braxton Hicks contractions. These types of contractions do not terminate into preterm labor. In Braxton Hicks contractions the uterine muscles contract with tightening of the abdomen. They stop with change of position. As the contraction is reduced, uterus becomes soft. Such type of contractions is not painful.
On the other hand, true premature contractions which may lead to early labor are painful and occur frequently with an interval of 10 to 12 minutes. At least 5 to 7 contractions occur in an hour. Other signs and symptoms are:
- Leakage of watery fluid from vagina.
- Constant pressure in lower abdomen and the pelvis giving a feeling of baby pressing down.
- Backache associated with contractions.
- Cramps in abdomen sometimes accompanied with diarrhea.
- Bleeding from vagina.
Treatment For Premature Contractions
If you suspect the signs and symptoms are those of premature labor contraction talk to your doctor immediately as there is increased risk of premature labor. The only way to know whether the contractions are true premature contractions of pregnancy, vaginal examination has to be performed. Your doctor will examine the cervix whether it is soft and opened.
All attempts are made to prevent delivery as longer the baby stays in the womb, the chances of complications are less. Babies born prematurely have greater risk of developing brain and neurological problems.
Medications are used to stop contraction if the mother and baby inside are healthy. These medicines are often given along with steroids. Once the contractions have stopped, the woman is advised to take complete bed rest at home for few weeks till the actual delivery period.