Detecting Pre-term Labour

Detecting preterm labor


Pre-term labour happens when the uterus contracts and causes the cervix to open and prepare for delivery – before the 37th week of pregnancy. But the onset of pre-term labour can be difficult to detect, until it’s too late to stop it altogether.

Though the cause of pre-term labour has not been completely understood, it has been found that certain situations may increase your risk of experiencing a pre-term delivery.


The Most Common Factors Associated with Pre-term Labour are:

  • A current pregnancy of twins, triplets or multiples
  • A history of pre-term labour
  • Abnormalities in the Cervix
  • Problems with the Placenta
  • Infection of the urinary tract or a sexually transmitted infection

It is recommended that expectant women who have at least one of the above-mentioned risk factors, should be aware of contractions and the signs and symptoms of pre-term labour.


What Is A Contraction?

When the uterine muscles tighten and feel hard, and then relax and feel soft, this process is known as a contraction. For example, tighten the muscle in your upper arm and feel how hard it is. Relax the muscle and it feels soft again. A similar hardening and softening of the walls of your uterus is a contraction.

Most women are not aware of the fact that contractions usually occur throughout pregnancy – and are harmless most of the time. They are usually painless, and could pass unnoticed. Certain activities such as changing your position or having a full bladder could cause you to have a contraction.

But contractions that happen too often could lead to pre-term labour and cause your baby to be born prematurely.


How To Find Out If Your Contractions Are ‘Normal’

There are two ways of detecting if the contractions you experience during pregnancy are normal, and not a sign of pre-term labour:

Self-Palpation Technique

This is an easy technique that you can use to check for uterine contractions on your own.You can check for contractions twice a day, after the 20th week of pregnancy.

  • Drink 1 or 2 glasses of water
  • Urinate and empty your bladder
  • Lie down on your left side. Use pillows to help support yourself so you can find a comfortable position. Do not lie flat on your back.
  • Place your fingers on your stomach on either side of your belly button
  • Wait for your uterus to contract or tighten. During a contraction, your uterus will feel hard like your forehead. Use a watch to see how long the contraction lasts. After the contraction, your uterus will relax and you can press into it with your fingertips. If you have 4 or more contractions in an hour, call your Doctor right away.
  • If you are having difficulty feeling contractions, you may not be having contractions or you may not be aware they are occurring


Electronic Contraction Monitor

  • An electronic monitor may be used by your Doctor to detect the contractions that may be associated with pre-term labor. Here’s how it works:
  • You will wear a belt around your stomach for an hour, most likely twice a day
  • The belt has a sensing device, which is attached to a small recorder
  • If you have a contraction while you are wearing the belt, the sensing device records the information about your contraction
  • Your Doctor will monitor the recorded information on a daily basis


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