Premature Contractions in Pregnancy Causes and Treatment

Pregnancy usually lasts for 39 to 40 weeks on an average from the first day of last menses. It is the time when the pregnant woman goes into labor, a process of childbirth. During the first stage of labor, the woman experiences uterine contractions that are longer, frequent, and stronger. These contractions help parturition of the baby. There are many pregnant women who may experience contraction before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

These are called premature contractions. Most of these contractions are Braxton Hicks contractions that are irregular, infrequent and painless. Braxton Hicks contractions do not last long and reduce with change in position. Braxton Hicks contractions are not involved in inducing labor. You may say they are just ‘practice contraction’ before the true event. But sometime a pregnant woman may experience painful, regular and frequent contraction of uterus. These contractions can be premature contraction of labor that may lead to pre term delivery.

Causes of Premature Uterine Contractions

Premature uterine contraction occurs due to multiple reasons:

  • Woman having past history of premature labor.
  • Woman having twins or multiple fetuses.
  • Pregnant woman with multiple pregnancies.
  • Woman getting pregnant immediately after the last full term delivery.
  • Increased risk among in vitro fertilization.
  • Sexually transmitted disease, frequent urinary tract infection, gonorrhea, Chlamydia infection, vaginal infection, malaria, dengue, can trigger premature labor contraction.
  • Structural abnormality of cervix and uterus.
  • High blood pressure in pregnancy
  • Cigarette smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Mental stress, pregnant woman sexually abused, trauma.
  • After strenuous work
  • History of several miscarriages.

Symptoms of Premature Contractions

Premature contractions during pregnancy occur before 37 weeks of pregnancy. These contractions can be of two types. One is Braxton Hicks contractions and other is true premature contractions that may terminate into pre term labor in some cases. Braxton Hicks contractions are false contraction where the uterus contracts with tightening of abdomen. You may label these contractions as practice contractions. They are irregular, painless and infrequent. With change of position Braxton Hicks contractions reduce and uterus relaxes.

The second type is true premature contraction of pregnancy which may lead to onset of premature labor. These contractions are painful, rhythmic, longer and frequent. Such contractions occur at every 10 minutes. In an hour there may more than 7 to 8 contraction. Besides the nature of contraction, other obstetric signs and symptoms include:

  • Woman experiences continuous pressure in lower abdomen and pelvis.
  • Passage of watery fluid from vagina which is also called rupture of membrane. The fluid may trickle or rush out in force.
  • Each contraction increases severity of backache.
  • Diarrhea accompanying contractions.
  • Discharge from vagina can be blood tinged.

Treatment Options

If the signs and symptoms indicate true premature uterine contraction, consult your health care provider because there is risk that the contractions may lead to premature labor. Your doctor will examine your vagina. It helps to know whether the cervix is soft and dilated. The doctor makes all possible attempts to postpone labor by few weeks to prevent complications. Premature birth of baby increases risk of several brain and neurological problems. The doctor also administers certain medicines to stop contractions. A warm bath and deep breathing also helps to reduce the contractions. As the contraction reduces and stops, woman is advised to take complete bed rest for few weeks till the actual delivery date.