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Three Strategies to Prevent Pre-Term Contractions

Posted: Pregnancy & Birth » Problems » Labor & Delivery | July 1st, 2004



By Patricia Newton

It’s every expectant parent’s nightmare: Mild contractions begin and continue throughout the day. A phone call is finally made, and Mom and Dad frantically rush to the hospital with a strong sense that something is wrong. What began as a typical day with their due date far off in the distance ends with tremendous fear for the safety of their baby.

Contractions have started too soon.

The water connection
For some women, pre-term labor (defined as labor which occurs prior to 36 weeks of gestation) cannot be stopped — nor can the reason for it be explained, although medical professionals have their ideas. But for many others, preterm contractions can be directly related to dehydration.

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According to Ann Riley-Spoltore, a certified nurse-midwife in Bridgeton, N.J., “Contractions brought on by dehydration do not result in a premature birth of baby.” Instead, the cramping-like contractions “just make mom feel miserable and usually brings some fear for the woman and her family.” She adds that it is a relatively common problem, “especially in the summer months.”

So how is dehydration linked to early contractions? Think of a can of frozen orange juice. The frozen juice is highly concentrated. The sugar level is high and it’s very sweet to taste. However, once the juice is diluted with water, it becomes more palatable. The concentration becomes more balanced.

The same thing happens with the blood pumping throughout a pregnant woman’s body. When there is not enough water, the blood becomes more concentrated. Therefore, the “ingredients” – including pregnancy hormones — seem to be stronger. Specifically, the hormone responsible for uterine contractions, oxytocin, reaches higher than usual levels in the bloodstream, and contractions begin.

One of the first things the hospital staff will do with a woman who appears to have pre-term labor contractions is to attempt to re-hydrate her. This will quite possibly be done through an IV. Her urine will be checked for ketone levels. She will also be placed on an electronic fetal monitor, and her contractions will be observed, as will the condition of her baby’s heart rate and response to the contractions.

For those women whose contractions stop after re-hydration, they will more than likely be discharged with orders to increase their fluid intake and follow up with a visit to their doctor or midwife.

Prevention: 1-2-3
Experiencing pre-term contractions can no doubt be scary, and everyone thinks of the worst possible scenario. So, how can you try to avoid pre-term contractions? Here are some tips.

Stay out of the sun. Excessive sun seems to suck the fluids right out of a person, and a pregnant woman should be especially aware of this. If you truly are a sun worshipper, then at least reduce and limit your time spent in the sun.

Drink plenty of water. If your mouth is dry and you feel thirsty, then you’ve waited too long to drink water. Fill up a 32-ounce sports bottle with water and drink it throughout your day. You’ll be surprised how much water you’ll drink if you carry it with you at all times. The pregnant woman should drink no less than 32 ounces of water per day, which is only four cups. Drinking 32 ounces of other liquid, such as milk, juices and non-caffeine beverages, in addition to 32 ounces of water per day is optimum.

Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a diuretic, which causes your body to lose more water than it should. This will increase your need for more good fluids such as water. So cut back on your consumption of tea, coffee and soda. Along with sugary fruit juices, they should be viewed as being an occasional snack rather than a beverage.

Water is a basic necessity of life for both the pregnant woman and her baby. By providing your body with the amount of water it needs, you will be preventing possible complications during your pregnancy.

© Patricia Newton

A busy homeschooling mom of three, Patricia Newton has a passion for helping childbearing women and their families. She is the founder of a national program for military families, Operation Special Delivery, and the owner of Proud Pregnancies, and provides doula services as well as childbirth and breastfeeding education in southern New Jersey.

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