Women in Austin deemed a high risk for preterm labor and delivery may require screening. During normal prenatal care, all women at Balcones Obtetrics and Gynecology are screened for the possibility of complications through the interview and examination process by using a general risk factor assessment. The evaluation consists of a list of specific factors that Dr. Binford and our obstetrics team look for throughout the pregnancy. However, expectant mothers considered to have abnormally high risk rates must undergo further evaluation.
Pregnancy Labs, Imaging Studies and Physical Assessments in Austin
* Urinalysis and vaginal culture rule out the possibility of infection.
* Transvaginal ultrasonography provides a visual image of the cervix. In the third trimester, we look for the cervix to be greater than 2.5 centimeters in length. If the cervix becomes shorter prematurely, women are considered at a higher risk for preterm labor and delivery. The visual evaluation also monitors the cervix for premature dilatation.
* Fetal fibronectin is a protein that acts as an adhesive between the amniotic sac and the uterine lining. During a routine pelvic examination, at anywhere from 24 to 34 weeks, a Dr. Binford or our associates may swab the cervix for evidence the protein. If present, the protein may be in the process of deteriorating, which is an early indication of preterm labor. The physicians at Balcones OB/GYN may repeat this simple test every two weeks as needed.
Symptoms of Preterm Labor
Preterm labor might occur anytime before the 37th week of pregnancy. Especially with a first baby, women may not know the difference between the aches and pains of a normal pregnancy, infant movement or labor contractions. When in doubt, expectant mothers should consult with Dr Binford and the professionals at Balcones OB/GYN. The common symptoms associated with preterm labor include:
- Continued cramping or contractions spaced 10 minutes apart occur closer together
- A watery vaginal discharge
- Scant vaginal spotting or bleeding
- Pelvic pressure that feels like the baby is pushing downward
- Intermittent or persistent lower back pain
- Intermittent menstrual-like cramps
- Abdominal cramping accompanied by diarrhea
Preterm Labor Risk Factors
There are numerous factors that may contribute to preterm labor and delivery. The greater number of risk factors that a woman has, the greater the likelihood that she will experience preterm labor. However, the condition might occur without current or previous risk factors. Some of the many risks include:
- History of preterm labor and delivery
- Alcohol consumption, drug use, smoking
- Anatomical anomalies of the mother related to the reproductive system
- Infections or sexually transmitted diseases
- Current or past pregnancy complications
- History of miscarriage
- Abdominal surgery during pregnancy
- Multiple fetuses
- Fetal abnormalities
- Hormone exposure
- Pre-existing medical conditions
A full-term pregnancy spans 38 to 42 weeks. A woman may experience preterm or premature labor anytime between the 20th and 37th weeks of pregnancy. Preterm labor may lead to preterm delivery. Infants born prior to the 37 week gestation mark are considered premature. If preterm labor begins, Dr. Binford and the obstetrics team attempt to stop the process using bed rest and medication. If the labor proceeds, the baby’s best chance for survival requires delivery at a hospital in Austin with a neonatal intensive care unit. Approximately one in eight births in the United States are considered premature.
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