Our Preterm Labor Scare
The night before we left for home:
I fell ill with abdominal pain that acted for all the world like the familiar illiuses I used to frequently get. So I got in bed and worked my way through it. I later found out that I was having contractions for almost 9 hours.
I woke up the next day feeling sore and lethargic. I rested some more and generally took it easy.
Our flight was delayed for another 12 hours until Sat morning. We made it home and that night I again found myself with abdominal pain. I also noticed uterine tightening and I suspected they were simply Braxton hicks contractions which are common in pregnancy. I read that Braxton contractions are painless and sporadic. These were NOT painless, but were they sporadic? I got out my timer and began timing them. They were coming every 10 minutes…then 7 mins. I went to bathroom and noticed spotting and began to panic a little. I told Chris I needed to go to the hospital and have this checked out. So off we went to the triage unit.
There they hooked me up to monitors to keep track of fetal heart rate (it was fine) and for contractions. At first it seemed they had calmed down and it was a false alarm. My OB stopped by and it seemed everyone had little concern for the possibility of preterm labor. I’ve never been in labor so of course I didn’t have a clue if I was or was not. The OB said to monitor me for a little bit to rule out contractions. Just before deciding to release me I was hit with round after round of contractions similar to what I felt before we got back from our trip. I was hit with one really bad one that caused me to start vomiting. It hurt. A lot.
The nurse got on the phone and they rushed to give me a shot of Brethine to stop the contractions. After a little breath holding it seemed that the contractions were beginning to slow down. They decided to check for dilation with a speculum exam. This was NOT comfortable. But they needed to check and that was that. They found that I had not dilated. BIG relief there. They did a test called a Fetal Fibronectin test which is a test that checks to see if baby could be releasing pre-labor proteins. If negative, that meant that there was a 98% chance that I would not go into labor. If positive, that meant that I may nor may not go into labor in the next 2 weeks. The positive result is not really reliable as far as predicting labor, but it does raise slight concern when combined with other symptoms of preterm labor.
It was positive.
They also found that I had 3 pelvic infections, all of which can cause uterine irritability and start preterm labor. They decided to admit me to figure out how to get things under control, to treat the infections, and to rule out preterm labor. They ended up giving me several rounds of antibiotics, lots of fluids, a cervical length sonogram, and several consults with various physicians to figure out exactly why I was having the contractions and how to manage this so I can avoid delivering so soon. They also gave me a Celestone steroid shot to mature the baby’s lungs rapidly in case I were to deliver prematurely.
At 27 weeks, babies are certainly viable and many go on to perfectly healthy lives. They spend many weeks in the NICU to develop and gain weight. They usually catch up to their at-term age group around 2 years of age. Still, every extra day in the womb decreases their chance of potential complications and so it is important for them to stay in for as long as possible.
24 hours after the Brethine shot to stop contractions, I awoke to more contractions. These felt more like a bad backache and really bad period cramps. They hooked me back up to the monitor and confirmed the contractions. Thankfully the contractions stopped on their own and no further intervention was needed.
Next I had the BIG SONOGRAM to check my cervix. If dilated or shortened, it would confirm preterm labor. I was neither dilated nor shortened. It turns out that though I am at a high risk of preterm labor, the contractions that I’ve been having are not considered to be labor since the definition of labor requires both cervical change and contractions.
Baby looked awesome on the monitor. He didn’t seem to mind all the drama one bit. He is perfectly healthy and weighs about 2.4 pounds already, slightly bigger than his baby-mates.
At the moment, I have just eaten my first meal (yes, they starve even pregnant folks if needed) They didn’t want me eating in case they had to do an emergency c-section. I am about to be transferred out of labor and delivery for one more night of antibiotics and observation before sending me home. I also have one more consult to do so I can “maximize my home care management to prevent me from bouncing in and out of the hospital.”