Getting to sleep may be more difficult around now as your bump gets bigger. A few babies do arrive early, so it’s worth being prepared.
If you start to notice your whole bump go hard and then relax again – yes, they’re practice runs for labour. These painless contractions are called ‘Braxton Hicks’ after the doctor who first described them. You can use them to practise breathing and relaxation techniques for labour. As your bump goes hard, sigh out and then take steady deep breathes. Let your body relax. When the practise contraction finishes take a deep breath, and smile.
About seven per cent of babies are born prematurely. There are some known risk factors for ‘prem’ babies like smoking, mums who are very underweight in pregnancy, and twin pregnancies. Bleeding in early pregnancy can also be an indicator of the baby being born early. Some mothers go into labour early because of a vaginal infection, and occasionally the waters break early after a vaginal or urine infection.
If labour begins before 34 weeks, you may be given drugs to delay the birth while you are transferred to a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit. You may also be given drugs which let your baby’s lungs reach greater maturity so that they are better prepared for breathing when your baby is born.
If your waters break and there are no contractions, you may be admitted to the maternity unit for observation until your baby is old enough to be born or labour has to be induced. Labour may be induced if you develop a raised temperature, which is usually a sign of infection.
If the baby is breech (bottom down) your doctor will discuss the mode of delivery with you.
Depending on how premature your baby is, and whether or not he is poorly, he may need help with:
If you have a premature baby, medical care staff will encourage you to give as much care to your baby as possible. Staff will show you what to do. Sick and premature babies need emotional as well as physical care… and this is best given by the parents. But you need support, too! You may need the help of friends and relatives to get to and from hospital, and to sit with your baby while you take a break.
Scans are sometimes used in late pregnancy to check on babies who don’t seem to be growing satisfactorily and who may need to be born early; the scan can measure blood flow through the umbilical arteries and through the placenta. If you’re booked for a late scan, consider taking a friend along with you for support.
Somehow, no matter how tired you get, you may find it difficult to fall asleep, or stay asleep. You could:
Try these techniques for calming before you go to bed:
Don’t worry if you can’t sleep. Practise relaxation exercises. If you become really fidgety, get up and do something. Try and catch up on lost sleep the next day.