Preterm Labor & Preeclampsia: What to Watch for in the Third Trimester

It’s your third trimester, which means you are in full baby-prep mode. In between packing your delivery bag and finalizing the nursery, though, it’s important to stay alert to your body and its changes. Preterm labor and Preeclampsia are two important conditions to look for during the third trimester that could impact you and your baby’s health. 

They’re nothing to be scared about, as long as you are on the lookout and detect them early! 

Below are more details about each condition and the signs and symptoms to pay attention to.

Preterm labor

Preterm labor is labor that occurs before 37 weeks, which is when we call the pregnancy “term” and labor can happen without any medical concerns. 

Before 37 weeks, your baby’s lungs are not fully developed and are not ready for life outside the uterus. This is one of the main concerns of going into labor or giving birth early. The closer you are to reaching this 37-week mark, the more this worry decreases. Preterm labor can look like regular term labor in the sense that your may water break or contractions may start, be consistent and get closer together. Preterm labor can also present as lower back pain, upper thigh pain, an increase in pelvic pressure, and menstrual-like cramps. 

Prior to reaching 37 weeks, call us (or your obstetrics provider) if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Vaginal bleeding 
  • 4-6 contractions in one hour
  • Contractions that are consistent and in a pattern
  • Leaking of fluid or water breaking
  • Upper thigh/lower back pain
  • Increased pelvic pressure
  • Menstrual like cramps

Preeclampsia 

Preeclampsia  is a condition in which you have high blood pressure and your liver and kidneys are not functioning as well. This condition can progress rapidly. It may require ongoing hospitalization and may cause the early delivery of your baby. 

Although the majority of pregnant women will not experience this, preeclampsia can be serious if it develops, even causing seizures or organ damage. This is one of the reasons we check your blood pressure at each visit, to ensure it is within the normal range (below 140/90). 

Other possible signs of preeclampsia include:

  • Headache not relieved by 1000mg of Tylenol
  • Vision changes—specifically floaters, flashes of light and spots, but not necessarily blurry vision
  • Right upper quadrant pain (a dull ache under your right ribs that may wrap around your side to your back.) Typically, this pain is not relieved by you or baby changing positions.

Keep in mind that you may not have preterm labor or preeclampsia if you are only experiencing one symptom. However, if you are concerned, you should check in with your care providers so they can do additional urine and blood tests and evaluate how your body is handling the pregnancy. 

If you have questions or concerns about any of the above symptoms, please contact us to speak with one of our care providers!

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