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I. Preterm Labor
What is preterm labor and what does it mean to your baby? Now that your OB care provider has diagnosed preterm labor you probably have many questions. This information is provided to help you understand the diagnosis of preterm labor as well as to help you identify more questions that you might want to ask your OB care provider or nurse. The information here will also attempt to help you understand and deal with the treatment plan you might need to follow.

What Does Preterm Mean?
Pregnancy is calculated to be 40 weeks from the first day of your last period. Any delivery beyond the 37th week is considered term. Any delivery that occurs during the period of 20 to 36 weeks is considered preterm. Preterm birth is one of the most important problems affecting newborns today. Some of the complications include respiratory difficulties feeding problems infections, and problems with temperature regulation. This is why it is so important to provide this information to you, so that you can have the tools to help identify, treat, and prevent preterm labor and birth.

Am I at Risk?
The cause of preterm labor and birth is not exactly understood, but certain situations have been identified as increasing your risk for preterm labor. The following have been associated with an increased risk of preterm labor:

1. Previous preterm labor or delivery

2. Abnormally shaped uterus, DES daughters, uterine surgery

3. Two or more second trimester abortions or miscarriages

4. Incompetent cervix, cone biopsy, large fibroids

5. Current pregnancy with twins, triplets, etc.

6. Feeling that something is wrong, even without any specific 
    symptoms or cause


How Can I Check for Contractions?
Lie down and place your fingers on your uterus. If your uterus is tightening and softening you will be able to tell how often it is happening. Time the contractions by noting the time between the start of one tightening and the 

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start of the next tightening. Because at times uterine contractions (especially in preterm labor) occur without any other warning signs, it is important that you feel your abdomen for contractions (or use home monitoring if that is part of your treatment) at least twice a day for half-hour periods. It is very helpful to do this at the same time each day if possible.
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