Inside the mind of a mother experiencing preterm labor
This is scary…
This is not how things were supposed to go.
I am WEEKS/MONTHS away from my due date!
I have heard the NICU horror stories…
I am NOT interested in writing one.
What is this? … Why is it happening?
Why now? … Why ME?!
What did I miss? … What did I do?
What could I have done differently?
Is this all my fault?
Can we stop it? … Is it too late?
Will my baby be okay?
I know this space… I know it well because I have been there. It’s definitely a scary place to be even for a “knowledgeable birth advocate” like me .
It’s not a part of the plan EVER!! Today, as we recognize Prematurity Awareness Day, my heart and spirit is definitely with each of you that has been in that space. My pregnancy ended with a birth at 25 weeks. I was not able to bring my baby home with me. Some of you, like me, were unable to bring your baby home. Some of you count your blessings and see a miracle every time you get a hug from your child. Either way, I honor you today. Let’s keep up the fight not simply to bring awareness to the poor grades of EVERY state in this nation as it relates to prematurity; let’s work toward PREVENTION!! We have to keep PREVENTION at the forefront.
A premature birth/prematurity is the birth of an infant before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. Just like pregnancy and birth in general, a preterm birth is the result of a complicated interplay between mother, fetus, and the universe. Sometimes we can determine with relative certainty a direct cause for a preterm birth. More often however, there are more questions than answers. And while there are times when a preterm birth is necessary i.e. when the health of either mother or infant is in jeopardy if the pregnancy continues, often times we can prevent or delay a preterm birth. When you are experiencing preterm labor, every hour, every day, and every week that you can keep your baby on the inside can create a better outcome once she is born.
There are so MANY things I could include in a post like this but here are just few thoughts from the top of my head re: Preventing Preterm Birth:
Keep your prenatal appointments – While all prenatal care is not created equal and some models create better results than others, studies have shown that getting prenatal care can reduce the incidence of preterm labor and birth. Example: One of my most recent experiences with a mother in preterm labor happened with a mom who went in for a routine ultrasound. They noted via ultrasound that her cervix was completely effaced. She was sent to the hospital and we discovered she was having contractions every 2-3 minutes and she was 2cm dilated. Keep your appointments ladies. You never know what questions might be asked, what comments might be made that might trigger an exam and discover you have been having preterm labor.
Get adequate rest and ask for help – There is no need to be “superwoman” or “Supermom.” Sit down. Put your feet up. Take care of yourself. De-stress and detoxify your emotions. This is good for general overall health and also good for helping with preterm labor. Working is fine… exercising is great but don’t overdo it. You have to listen to your body!!!
Stay well hydrated – No matter how much water you are drinking… it’s NOT enough LOL. Drink more… Especially: in the summer months, if you are working in a dehydrating environment, if you drink coffee, tea, sodas. I can’t tell you the number of women who arrive to the hospital with pre-term labor that is stopped with a bolus of IV hydration. If you stay hydrated on your own… it won’t come to that. Drink WATER. Drink WATER. Drink WATER!
Have the expectation of a healthy full-term baby. – While a previous preterm birth says you may be “at risk” for a preterm birth with this pregnancy, it does NOT mean you WILL have another preterm birth. What is your expectation? It can certainly make a difference. So often I meet a woman who says to me “All my babies are born prematurely” Is that so I think to myself… well not on my watch I want your baby to be full term. And they look at me confused as though the last chapter has already been written. Every pregnancy and birth is different. Lets make THIS one a full term one.
Avoid an unnecessary induction. – Even though you and your provider may THINK you are full term… there is a chance that you may still deliver a premature baby. Let your baby tell you when she is ready to be born. An induction with no indication has been the cause of many NICU admissions. Babies thought to be 38 weeks have been induced and at birth found to be 36 weeks. NOT okay!! Additionally, if you are “near” term and you are found to be 2-3 cm dilated this does not mean you need to “speed things up.” You can be 2-3 cm dilated at 35 weeks and stay that way until you are 40 weeks pregnant!! Don’t get induced! Its NOT worth it. Your baby’s immediate and long term health can be altered by that decision.
In the words of Jennie Joseph, one of my favorite midwifery sheroes… may you have a “healthy full-term FAT baby” :D
In Birth and Love