An Uncomplicated Life Blog: What It's Like To Be In Preterm Labor

Thursday, October 4, 2018

What It's Like To Be In Preterm Labor

Preterm labor is a serious medical condition that has negative health implications for 10% of babies born in the US every year. This is what it's like to actually go through it

Preterm labor is simply going into labor too early, before 37 weeks gestation. I've had four children. None of which were carried to full term. Well, I'm not sure when I'll publish this post, I might still only have two kids but I'll probably have four... Because I'm currently fighting preterm labor, it's hard to say! When preterm labor struck at 29 weeks with Henry, I was completely oblivious that preterm labor was "a thing" and what the risks were. Otto was my easiest pregnancy with fewest symptoms and problems, yet preterm labor struck with him at 36 weeks. Now with the twins, it started at 29 weeks. I thought we had gotten it under control, but things came back with a vengeance at 32 weeks. If you're a friend, family member or spouse of someone who has or is suffering from early labor, I hope you read this to understand how to support her. If you've been through it or are going through it, I hope you read this post on what it's like to be in preterm labor and know you're not alone! You're not crazy and you're not doing anything wrong.

32 weeks pregnant with the twins and about to find out some very unexpected news!

Like I mentioned, I've never carried a child to full term. Henry came at 36 weeks after 7 weeks of bed rest due to my water breaking from contractions; Otto came at 38 weeks (39 is considered full term now - 37-38 is early term) with a scare at 36 weeks where we actually went to the hospital thinking it was time; and while I write this I'm currently on bed rest and a prescription to curb contractions with my twins at 33 weeks. I hope to make it to 36 week because most 36 week babies don't need NICU time! But I'd take 35 weeks, which is the national average gestation for twins. 

I remember being pregnant with Henry, laying on the couch and noticing strong contractions. I have regular Braxton Hicks contractions starting in my second trimester, but these were pretty strong. I started to pay attention, and they were coming every 7 minutes. I drank water. I continued to rest on my side. They kept coming every 7 minutes. I looked at my husband and said, "Something isn't right." We called the midwife who told me to have a glass of wine and get in a warm tub and relax. If they didn't die down within an hour or so, call her back. They did, but I still went in the next morning to have her check me and low and behold, I was dilated and effaced. Bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy held off or regulated strong contractions until my water broke at 36 weeks (in the Clinque line at Macy's!) and I delivered my breech baby via emergency c section with a OB I had met once at a hospital we had to google the directions to while en route. Hello, last minute MEGA birth plan change!

With Otto, I only had two scares. One was at 24 weeks while we were on our baby moon to Cape Cod. We were in our rental car after landing in Boston, driving out to the cape after a dinner with my sister and her husband, and I noticed I was having contractions every 10 minutes. I made my husband stop and get me several bottles of water, and they died right down, so I'm assuming I got dehydrated from the flight. Then at 36 weeks, I had contractions ever 3 minutes! I thought it was time, so we headed to the hospital. As soon as we got there, things died down. We were discharged a few hours later and I ended up making it all the way to 38 weeks with no bed rest and proceeded to have an amazing, fairly easy and complication-free VBAC. I love both my kids equally, but I have a special place in my heart for Otto for making pregnancy so easy on me and giving me the birth I wanted and had planned for. 

My final pregnancy wouldn't prove to be as easy as Otto. I sailed right through the first and second trimesters and thought, "Holy crap, this is going so well, watch me carry these twins to full term!" Hahaha, joke's on me. Twin moms are at increased risk for preterm birth, and if you have a history of it with singletons, you're extremely high risk. I made it to 29 weeks - just like with Henry - when I had a particularly busy week with work. Four major deadlines and three photo shoots that turned into six because the photos didn't come out well several times. I typically rested in the afternoons but this particular week, I had appointments every dang day in the afternoon.

Breaking some rules to get my hair cut and colored at 33 weeks pregnant

By Friday, I had my one prenatal massage I got this entire pregnancy. I thought of it as my reward for a hard week! But while I was driving to the spa I noticed I was contracting every 10 minutes. I contracted regularly through the massage and my facial. On the drive home, they were every 3 minutes! My husband had our kids and wanted to meet up at a restaurant somewhere, but when he called to solidify the location, I dropped the news that I HAD to get home. I laid down. Chugged water. They continued. The next day, they continued. By 2pm I called my doctor who gave me some parameters to watch for and if I hit them, to go to labor and delivery. Thankfully they died down before I got that far!

At 32 weeks I had a regular prenatal appointment with a growth scan for the twins. My doctor saw me walk into the ultrasound room and knew something was off immediately. My cervix had shortened to right at the cusp of red flag level, but because she saw how I walked she decided to check me. I was 2cm dilated and 70% effaced and she could knock on baby A's head! She stood back and stared at me with her arms crossed over her chest for a few moments, and I asked her what she was doing. "Contemplating admitting you to the hospital TODAY" she replied. She decided to give me bed rest with a drug I have to take every 6 hours to curb contractions, and to check me again in a week. If there was progress, I'd be admitted to the hospital then. If not, I'd carry on with bed rest and my meds until I deliver, hopefully making it to 35 or 36 weeks.

I find preterm labor to be infuriating. I'm doing everything right, so what's with my body not getting with the program here? I eat healthy, don't gain too much weight, eat fruit when I want cookies and ice cream, have picture perfect blood pressure, exercise four times a week (when I'm not on bed rest), never forget to take my prenatal vitamins, take a probiotic, I mean I'm the damn textbook for a healthy pregnant woman! So what's with the preterm labor? Why does my body not want to keep these babies in until they're fully mature? It's maddening. It's disheartening. It's totally out of my control.

The March of Dimes listed out risk factors for preterm labor. They have medical conditions that can cause it, like preclampsia and  type 1 or 2 diabetes. They have lifestyle choices that contribute to it like smoking, skipping your prenatal care appointments or being overly stressed out. And there's things that you can't control, like your age - under 17 and over 35 puts you at a greater risk for preterm labor. I have NONE OF THESE THINGS. I do none of these things! Having my first baby at 36 weeks was my first clue I was, and will always be, high risk for preterm birth.

34 weeks pregnant with twins and simply no longer caring about hair or makeup after two full weeks on bedrest and meds

I'm not sure if I can put into words how terrifying it is to realize you're having regular contractions so early in your pregnancy. First, you notice it. You think, "Hey, wait a minute! This is happening a tad too often..." Then you start to time them while you desperately chug water and lay down, or get in a warm bath. I've now spent the tail end of two out of three pregnancies completely consumed with how often I"m contracting, utterly unable to go about life in a normal way. Bedrest, contraction counting, baths. Bedrest, contraction counting, baths.

And I know I'm one of the lucky ones. Bedrest works pretty well and my body has responded to the medication, although the side effects for me are miserable. I have a job where I can still work on bedrest, and even if I couldn't, we're not dependent on my income in any way to get bills paid, so I have the luxury of taking whatever time I need. Both sides of our family have flown into town to help us. Honestly, I know that I'm a lucky pregnant one!

But I still grit my teeth when people say, "Oh, my friend went on bedrest and then went over! I bet you will too!" or even worse, "Bedrest must feel like a vacation!" Um, no and no, and to the second comment, I hope you go jump off the nearest cliff. I'm glad your friend got to term; that will never be my reality (especially with twins!) If you think bedrest is a vacation, you need to do some serious reorganizing of your own life, because if you define medically induced bedrest as a "treat" you're mentally ill. There's a reason people get put on house arrest as a punishment. Bedrest is akin to house arrest. It's even hard to stomach all the normal pregnant women who get to do things like grocery shop and go to parks or even just get out out of the house to run errands! I know pregnancy is hard and it makes your body ache, but if you have the freedom to move around and do things, you are so so so lucky.

35.5 weeks pregnant... Final bump shot? Who knows! Follow my Instagram for updates! 

So! Here I sit/lay with a steep recline, typing this post out at 35 weeks pregnant with twins. I don't know how far I'll make it, but I doubt I'll be able to write a 9 month pregnancy update. In addition to battling preterm labor in my 8th month, this is how things have been going:

Weeks gestation: 36 today!
Cravings: Still loving my sugar. Man I can't wait until I no longer love sugar again, this is a bad bad habit! Fruit, baked goods, yogurt covered pretzels, basically if it's sweet, I'd love to get my hands on it and eat it.
Aversions: Anything spicy, anything with tomatoes or other high acidity, anything that I look at and think, damn... That's some heartburn city! The contraction medication I'm on further relaxes my esophagus. I can literally get horrific heartburn from a dang piece of cheese!
Weight gain: 29 pounds; the most I've ever gained in a pregnancy, and the most I've ever weighed in my entire life! Pretty excited to birth 12 pounds of baby, 3 pounds of placenta and several pounds of amniotic fluid to ditch at least that weight overnight! And 30 pounds at 35 weeks with twins is pretty dang amazing! Still have zero stretch marks even though my belly is measuring the size of a woman 42 weeks gestation. Shout out to my ancestry for those amazing genes!


  1. Jeez girl. Sending you positive vibes and wish you well on this journey, sister. Take care of yourself my friend. xoxo

  2. Wishing you all the best and lots of blessings to you and your family. All will be well.

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