Even though we were overcome with joy, I couldn’t help but worry throughout my pregnancy. I worried if my breasts hurt too much or too little. I worried if my nausea was too severe, or if it was a good sign or bad if it came in waves. I was concerned if I felt pregnancy symptoms one day, but not the next. It took so long to get pregnant and I didn’t want anything to take my baby bean away from us. I started spotting and had lots of cramping around six weeks, so my RE put me on pelvic rest. For me, this didn’t mean a major lifestyle change. I worked a desk job and sat 99% of the day and didn’t do any heavy lifting at work. This did mean, however, no sex, no pushing the vacuum and no carrying the laundry basket up and down our stairs. My pelvic rest was lifted at my 8 week appointment, when we finally saw the tiny flicker of a heartbeat. We were no longer considered high risk and I was released to a regular OB.
At 14 weeks, my OB told me my cramping was round ligament pain, and it very well could have been. At 24 weeks, though, I didn’t feel right. I was bleeding and cramping again, and sent to L&D at my hospital. There I learned that I was having contractions every 12-15 minutes and was dilated to 1cm. A Fetal Fibronecten Test test determined that I wasn’t having my baby in the next two weeks. I was put back on pelvic rest until I had a regular appointment with my OB at 27 weeks, who cleared me for regular activity. I was even cleared to go on vacation with my family on the condition that a hospital was nearby (there was) and I took my charts with me (I did).
At 31w3d, I ended up back in Labor & Delivery being monitored for pre-term contractions and pre-term labor. They had no idea why I was spotting that Saturday morning, but did determine (thanks to another FFN test) that this baby wasn’t coming within the next two weeks. I was put back on pelvic rest and stayed that way for the rest of my pregnancy. I had contractions off and on throughout my entire pregnancy but they were untimable and irregular. Some I couldn’t breathe through. Some I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t paying attention to my belly tightening. I never dilated past 1cm.
During any stage of your pregnancy, it’s important to call your health care provider if you feel any or all of these symptoms:
- Contractions (your abdomen tightens like a fist) every 10 minutes, or more often
- Change in vaginal discharge (leaking fluid or bleeding from your vagina)
- Pelvic pressure — the feeling that your baby is pushing down
- Low, dull backache
- Cramps that feel like your period
- Abdominal cramps, with or without diarrhea
I had every single one of these symptoms except for the pelvic pressure. Each time, I called my OB’s office and was sent straight to L&D for monitoring. While in L&D, I was hooked up to several monitors: one to monitor contractions, one to monitor the baby’s heartbeat, IV for fluids, and an OB performed an fFN test. The fFN test felt very much like a pap smear, and I had the results in about an hour. fFN is a special protein that literally holds your baby in place in the womb. After the 35th week of pregnancy, it begins to break down naturally, and is detectable. If your body is getting ready to give birth prematurely, fFN may be detected before week 35. Waiting for the results was excruciating, though we did get the outcome we were hoping for.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, specific causes of premature labor are not yet known, but certain factors may increase a woman’s risk of having premature labor. Having a specific risk factor doesn’t mean you’ll experience premature labor, though.
- Being pregnant with multiples
- History of premature births
- Having uterine or cervical abnormalities
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding after 20 weeks of pregnancy
- Multiple first trimester abortions or one or more second trimester abortions
- Short time between pregnancies (less than 6-9 months between birth and beginning of the next pregnancy)
I presented with only one risk factor: unexplained vaginal bleeding after 20 weeks of pregnancy though I bled off and on throughout my entire pregnancy, starting at six weeks. At 24 weeks, my OB suspected that dehydration played a role in my pre-term contractions and gave me fluids, which made my contractions stop at my 24 week scare. I sorely underestimated how much water I needed to drink during my pregnancy. From that point forward, I drank upwards of two gallons of water a day. We measured my fluid intake by buying bottled water by the gallon and making sure I drank both gallons before bedtime. This kept the contractions at bay but only for awhile — I was contraction free from week 24 until week 31.
If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to give your healthcare provider a call no matter what time of day it is. There are on-call doctors and after-hour emergency lines available for a reason. I trusted the doctors and nurses in labor & delivery, as well as my OBs during my pregnancy. It was important for me to follow their advice and orders for my health and safety of our unborn baby.
As terrifying as the pre-term contractions were, we did go on to deliver a perfectly healthy and stubborn little girl via a planned c-section at the end of October because she was breech. After all those scares and contractions, she was given an eviction notice! Chloe is as stubborn now as she was then.
Have you or anyone you’ve known had pre-term contractions?