Friday, May 28, 2010

Thoughts on Preterm Labor & Birth

This is a topic I've thought a lot about over the past few months. A friend of mine was experiencing contractions at 34 weeks gestation. She went into the hospital and underwent some tests. It was confirmed that she was actually in labor. It was also discovered that she had a urinary tract infection that triggered her body to start contracting. She was given antibiotics to resolve the UTI and was told that her labor would subside as a result.

I wonder how often an underlying infection is the cause for preterm labor?

When there's an infection, the pregnant woman's body has a defense mechanism to protect the baby from the infection: start labor to try and get the baby out.

It doesn't matter if it's 40 weeks into the pregnancy, or 20. The woman's body is designed to protect the baby.

Infections can be tricky things. A woman can have a UTI and not realize it because the symptoms can be subtle. I think many women in our culture are so busy that they're not tuned in to their body's signals. If we slow down, take care of ourselves and pay attention to how we feel, we can often sense when there is a problem and catch it before it becomes serious.

There are ways to prevent preterm labor, and scientists are feverishly trying to pinpoint them, particularly because preterm labor is becoming more common in this country. The United States recently received a "D" on the March of Dimes 2009 Premature Birth Report Card, and it's important that we do something to change the trend of preterm labor and birth. One study found that a woman's DNA can predispose her to preterm labor, but there are other factors as well.

For one thing, you can do your best to stay healthy and low-risk through proper nutrition and exercise. This can help you avoid an infection that could trigger early labor. Proper nutrition can also help avoid preeclampsia and toximia, which are often culprits for prompting early induction resulting in possible preterm babies.

One thing I personally believe would make a big difference is for women to tune in with their bodies. Take some time each day to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Do you have energy, or are you struggling to get things done? What did you eat, and how did that affect how you were feeling? Did you drink plenty of clear fluids? Did you do something for you today? Are you happy? Do you have an overall feeling of well-being, or does it feel like something may be out of balance? Often, how you feel emotionally can be a signal of how things are going in your body, and a woman's intuition can really clue her in to some possible problems. I'm a true believer in intuition, and I've personally been working on listening more closely to my intuition and acting on even the smallest promptings I feel. I'm finding my life goes a little smoother and I'm better able to handle things when I pay attention to what my body and my feelings are trying to tell me.

This process of checking in with yourself can take as little or as much time as you have. It can be 2 minutes, or 2 hours. It can involve deep, focused breathing and meditation, or just a quick mental checklist. Find what works for you, and try it.

What do you think? Does any of this seem to fit together, or am I way out there?

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