Preterm labor is a concern for many pregnant women, especially as they near the end of their final trimester and feel like the baby could come out at any moment. There are numerous negative side effects associated with preterm birth, so it’s understandable that you may become concerned. Giving birth preterm could stunt your baby’s fetal development, which could lead to countless motor and mental problems throughout your child’s life. While there are some predictors to help women determine if they are at risk for delivering preterm, there is no way to say for sure whether or not the baby will arrive on time. Although, there is one test your doctor might give you if you begin showing signs of preterm labor.

If you start having contractions after week 24 and before week 34, there is a chance you could be going into preterm labor. If your doctor agrees that it seems like you might deliver preterm, he or she might give you a fetal fibronectin test. You’ll go through a test that feels similar to a pap smear and your doctor will analyze a sample of the secretions in your cervix. If he or she finds a high level of fetal fibronectin, it means you could in fact be going into labor. However, the problem with this test is that it won’t give you a definitive “yes” or “no” answer. If the test is negative though, you can hold off on worrying. A negative result means that it’s highly unlikely you’re going into labor. On the other hand, a positive result won’t really help at all. It means there is in fact a chance that you could go into labor preterm, but it leaves you at square one. There’s no telling when it will start, so your doctor will need to perform more tests.

While positive results from a fetal fibronectin won’t help much, taking the test is worth it to find out if you’ll get a negative result. If your doctor can say for sure that you’re not going into labor, he or she can hold off on treatments to delay it, such as bed rest and steroids to speed up your baby’s development. By holding off on these medications, you won’t need to deal with the side effects, and you can stop worrying about delivering preterm, For these results, the fetal fibronectin test is certainly worth it.

Source: Luis Sanchez-Ramos et al: Fetal Fibronectin as a Short-Term Predictor of Preterm Birth in Symptomatic Patients. Obstetrics and Gynecology Volume 114 Issue 3 pp. 631-640 September 2009

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