If you go into labor early, that is, if you begin to go into labor before your 37th week of pregnancy, you should contact your health care provider immediately. You will typically need to go into the hospital so that your situation can properly be assessed. Once you are there, your contractions will be monitored. Your baby’s heartbeat will be monitored, as well. They will check to see if your membranes have ruptured yet. They will also check your urine to see if you have an infection. They will probably do a cervical and a vaginal culture as well. They may do other testing too.
Depending on whether or not your water has broken, different things may occur. If your water has broken but you aren’t having contractions, your health care provider may wish to wait until labor starts. Or, they may decide to either induce labor or to delay labor. Regardless, you will be given an antibiotic to help hold off any infections. If you live in a small town, it is also possible that you will be transferred to a larger facility that has specific types of neonatal services available.
If your water has not broken, your health care provider will probably do an exam to check and see the state of your cervix. She may also do an ultrasound to check on the size of your baby, as well as your baby’s growth or position. She might look for the amount of fluid in the amniotic sac, as well. If your cervix is not dilated and effaced, if your membranes are not ruptured, you will probably be sent back home to wait.
If you are going to go into labor early and there is a health risk to you or your baby, or if your membranes have bee ruptured, it is possible your health care provider will need to go ahead and delivery your baby. You will probably be given an IV antibiotic. You may be given a steroid to help speed up the development of your baby’s organs, including the brain, lungs, and intestines. You may be given medication to try to stop contractions for a while. In many cases, a cesarean section delivery may take place, as opposed to a vaginal delivery.
The good news is that premature babies have a much better chance of surviving and being healthy than they have in decades past.