AT 29 WEEKS INTO MY PREGNANCY WITH MY DAUGHTER, I HAD JUST A HANDFUL OF VERY PAINFUL CRAMPS, BUT I KNEW SOMETHING JUST WASN’T RIGHT.
The pain felt like menstrual cramps, but why would I feel like I was getting my period now? I had lost my first pregnancy at 8 weeks, so I was scared. I went to the Labor and Delivery ward, where doctors examined me and found that my cervix had started to soften and dilate. “You’ll probably deliver at 36 weeks,” the doctor guessed. He didn’t appear concerned or offer any steps I could take to prolong my pregnancy.
At 33 weeks into my pregnancy, as I stepped off the elevator to meet with one of my clients, I suddenly had the feeling that the baby could just drop right out. I had been having contractions all night, but I figured they were just those Braxton Hicks contractions you always hear about. I called my doctor’s office, while I felt my belly becoming solid then soft, solid then soft. “Do you feel pressure?” the nurse asked. “I feel like she's pushing on me, like she's right there.” With alarm in her voice, Nurse Paula replied, “Get to Labor and Delivery now.”
Indeed, I was in labor. The baby was still high in the birth canal, fortunately, but I was having contractions three to five minutes apart. I was admitted to the hospital and given magnesium sulfate intravenously for nearly 48 hours to stop the contractions. The “mag,” as they call it, made me feel like I was burning up, like my skin was on fire. And it made me hallucinate. Because of the side effects, many obstetricians no longer give magnesium sulfate to stop labor or will use it only as a last resort. I learned this first-hand in April 2008 with my second fight against preterm labor.
My son, just 24 weeks along, was threatening to make his grand entrance into the world. It seemed like the contractions had stopped, but I wasn't taking any chances.
At 19 weeks into this pregnancy, we found out that one of our twins had died in utero. Were we about to lose another baby now, five weeks later? At the hospital, a nurse hooked me up to a monitor to time my contractions, which were about five minutes apart. The contractions were painless, but we could see on the transvaginal ultrasound that they were causing my cervix to shorten. I requested the ultrasound because I knew that a short cervix is one of the most accurate predictors of preterm labor. “You’re not getting out of bed,” my doctor said. “You’re 1.5 centimeters.” I couldn't believe this was happening again. I began taking nifedipine, was observed in the hospital for two days, and sent home to remain on bed rest for the next three months. I would continue the nifedipine, and the weekly 17P injections I had been getting since 16 weeks into the pregnancy. The plan was to go off the 17P and bed rest at 36 weeks and off the nifedipine at 37 weeks, as long as “Little Guy” stayed put until then. Just like my grandparents with their premature baby, my husband and I were afraid to give our son a name until we knew he was safe.
Like many women on extended bed rest, I experienced boredom and frustration, and multiple subsequent health issues, including borderline gestational diabetes, severe preeclampsia and acute kidney failure. (Learn more about related medical issues in our Forum.) It was one of the longest stretches of time I have ever been through, but today it's a fading memory. (I promise!)
I experienced four more preterm labor episodes and hospitalizations over those three months, but with medications and bed rest our little guy kept cookin'. My son was born at 39 weeks and three days, just 90 minutes after my water broke. (Three years earlier, my daughter was born at 39 weeks exactly, following six weeks of bed rest and several hospital visits).
I couldn't believe I beat preterm labor! Twice! It was difficult, both physically and emotionally, but I did it. By sharing my story and by creating a community for all women at risk of preterm birth, I hope that together we can prevent as many preterm births as possible.
Over the past four years, I have been amazed and overwhelmed at the level of support that women offer one another on the Forum and in the Chat Room. I offer my most sincere gratitude to all of you who have shared this part of your lives with us. You've helped more women than you'll ever know, because they can see that they aren't alone in the fear and frustration of a high-risk pregnancy.
Please visit our forum to learn more, to ask questions, and to share your experiences. If you have recommendations on how we can make this website better, or if you'd like to share how it helped you, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep ’em cookin’, mamas!
In loving memory of our angels Ava and Evan, and in gratitude for Miss Sunshine and Little Guy.
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11.1.11The United States Earns a "C" on the March of Dimes Annual Premature Birth Report Card
5.25.11A Commercial Blood Test to Assess the Risk of Preterm Birth Is Under Development
by Glade B. Curtis and Judith Schuler
by Barbara Luke and Tamara Eberlein
Warning Sign #1
If you are less than 37 weeks along, call your doctor immediately if you have more than four contractions in one hour, or cramping that feels like menstrual pain.