Thought I'd update with what I learned at my class about preterm labor:
What is a contraction?
- lasts for at least 30-40 seconds
- may or may not be painful
- tightening over the entire surface of the uterus
If you put both hands on your belly with your fingers a bit spread, you should be able to dent your belly. If it's hard and unindentable, then you are having a contraction. The reason to use both hands and spread the fingers is so that you don't mistake a baby butt or head for a solid feeling. The instructor says any contraction is a contraction, even if you don't feel the tightening and it's not painful.
Also, we learned we should have our hands on our bellies for about 30 minutes at a time, at least twice a day. This way you kind of get an idea of what your "normal' is, and when your body does something outside of your normal. Then you can also begin to identify contractions from gas, baby body parts, and movement of the baby.
She said to expect occasional contractions, especially:
- after orgasm
- after climbing stairs
- after running to catch the bus, etc
- evening or nighttime (she explained why but I can't remember now)
- with a full bladder
- when dehydrated
Preterm labor contractions are contractions before 37 weeks, 10 minutes or less apart, and 6 or more per hour.
Vague symptoms of preterm labor contractions include:
- menstrual-like cramps
- a low backache - I wish I had a picture for this but she showed us on her body - it's like halfway up your butt area to your lower back. So even lower than you might think of "lower back".
- pelvic pressure
- intestinal cramping with our without diarrhea
- vaginal discharge: mucous (again, what's your normal?), fluid, or bright red blood
- a general feeling that something is not right - apparently this is very frequently said by women who are admitted for pre-term labor, it's just something they can't really describe
Early changes to your cervix:
- a feeling like your period is about to start
- vaginal rather than abdominal pressure
- feeling that the baby is down too low or about to fall out
- feeling like you won't last until your due date
- feeling like things are opening up
If you experience preterm labor symptoms, before you call:
- empty your bladder
- drink a glass of juice or water
- lay down for one hour
- and during that hour, if contractions or other symptoms continue, call your provider or labor and delivery
If you call, list any reasons you are at risk for preterm labor, how far along you are, and your specific symptoms
FYI These are all my notes and I'm not a doctor or nurse or anything. I just thought I'd pass on what I learned in class because I thought it was interesting and were ways of describing things we could all relate to. You should probably take your own class or always call your doctor if you have questions. I feel like even for me, this is more for knowledge and reducing my fears than hard set guidelines to follow. She said that once the cervix starts opening up, you can't reverse it, so you want to do what you can to prevent preterm labor and go to the dr immediately because there are some drugs and things they can do to help.