Premature labor occurs when gestation is less than 37 weeks. As the blood volume expands to 50-60% of the blood (especially for twins), there is a need for more protein, vitamin E and B, iron (not iron salts), water and other minerals.
Premature labor is most often due to poor nutrition which predisposes women to infections and other precipitating factors. Healthy, well-nourished women have intermittent, strong Braxton-hicks contractions from about 34 weeks (and often sooner), lasting until term. Sometimes these practice contractions last for hours at a time. Primary prevention includes: eating healthy food, stopping of smoking/alcohol consumption, treating vaginal infections and other infections early (urinary, kidney, etc.), preventing anemia, adequate prenatal care, avoiding prolonged standing or work-related stress and other emotional stress.
One friend of mine is a vegan, multigravid mother who delivered a full-term infant weighing 7 lbs. last August 1996 in Santa Cruz. She had two births with premature infants, both weighing 5 lb. at 36th weeks gestation. The third healthy full term baby had no problems with sucking and jaundice as compared to his two old brothers who were born at 36 weeks and had problems with sucking and jaundice.
When my friend was pregnant for her third child, she had episodes of nausea during the first trimester which she ignored and continued on eating healthy food. She educated herself in midwifery care and wellness to keep a healthy baby. She is herself a student midwife who saw two midwives for her regular prenatal visits. In the 16th week of her pregnancy, she felt strong cramping and mucus discharge. She is aware of her previous premature births, her low socioeconomic lifestyle, her platypelloid (unusual) pelvis and her short cervix, all precursors to premature births.
This time she rested when her body complained of pain after a heavy household chore, riding in a bike or a bout with a flu or infection. She had a body and foot massage and used 2 particular herbs (in capsule form) which can prevent a miscarriage: red raspberry and wild yam. She took the herbs for less than 10 days and in the 31st week of her pregnancy she felt strong and consistent contractions. Determined to have a full term baby, she was taking things slowly especially household chores, taking more rest and eating nutritious food and especially hydrating or drinking lots of filtered water every hour. She listened to her midwives and stopped breastfeeding her toddler when she learned of her pregnancy and stopped sex during the last trimester.
At 37 weeks and 3 days, she felt that labor was starting and called her midwives. Rocking herself on the chair for a few hours and staying on hands and knees few minutes before the baby came, she felt the pain which lasted for a good 15 minutes and she birthed a 7 pounds baby boy to her delight. When asked about her pregnancy and carrying a full term baby, she said she could have carried the baby even longer had she rested and worked with less stress.
Overall she is happy that all her tuning in to her body and providing proper nutrition for her baby inside her womb paid off in the end.
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