I went into labor at 26 weeks while pregnant with twins

April 25 | Guest post by keren
By: Larry JacobsenCC BY 2.0
At 26 weeks pregnant with twins, I went into labor while standing in the cleaning products aisle at my local grocery store. I called my doctor from the parking lot and explained to her that I was feeling a lot of pressure and what I thought could be Braxton-Hicks contractions. She told me to get to the hospital ASAP because it sounded like I was in labor. She wanted me go straight to the only hospital in the area that had a Level III NICU — one that I had never been to and one that she did not work at.

After a long awkward cab ride, I walked into the hospital expecting to be sent home. I was still sure I was experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions. I was so completely wrong — it only took my new doctor a matter of moments to realize I was in active labor. He explained to me that what I was experiencing was preterm labor and the symptoms that I ignored all morning were the early warning signs. The pressure and mild cramps that I woke up to were actually mild contractions. The blood in my underwear was not spotting. All morning I kept telling myself that I was fine because I was only 26 weeks pregnant and having a perfect pregnancy. I hadn't had any morning sickness or a sore back or swollen feet — preterm labor happens to other women. People with medical problems and older women — not to me.

My new doctor told me he was glad I came in when I did because I was already completely effaced and starting to dilate. He was going to start the procedure to slow and hopefully stop my contractions, which would give my unborn twins much needed time. Unfortunately, as my contractions got closer together my blood pressure dropped dangerously low and stayed that way.

My memory of this time is pretty foggy and mostly consists of scary words like NICU, brain bleeds, respiratory distress, cardiac arrest, and survival rates. All I remember is being wheeled out of my room by a group of people in surgical gowns, a nurse asking me if I knew what was going on (which I didn't) and a different doctor in a surgical mask saying "I'm not bringing 26-weekers into this world if I don't have to." Unfortunately, I have no real memories of those few hours so I am missing the details of what happened in the delivery room.

My nurse gave me the first round of corticosteroids to hasten fetal lung development and I was prepped for an IV of magnesium to stop the contractions. She warned me of the possible side effects: nausea, vomiting, pain, or — in my case — veins of fire! This is about the time my husband came running into the room. My amazing nurse called him and told him what was going on and advised him to leave work and get to the hospital. I was so sure that this was false labor that I never even told my husband I was going to the hospital!

After a few days with no more contractions I was taken off the magnesium IV. However, my latest ultrasound showed that I basically had "no cervix left" (my doctor's exact words). It was decided that I needed to stay in the hospital until I delivered — which was hopefully not for ten more weeks. They feared labor would come on just as fast as it did earlier that week, so I stayed in bed with nothing to do but read borrowed Chelsea Handler books, watch Law and Order reruns, and worry.

Flash forward a few days and it started all over again. At 6:30 am I noticed I was bleeding and the monitor was picking up small contractions. By 9am I was wheeled down the hallway to the surgery/ delivery room. I was going to deliver my twins at 27 weeks and 2 days — whether I was ready or not.

Luckily for me, the amazing nurse from the first day was with me in the delivery room. Remembering that I had mentioned how much I wanted a vaginal delivery she talked the doctor into letting me try. While I was waiting on the cold surgical table, moaning in pain, she grabbed my hand and said, "Your body knows how to do this. I know it hurts but you need to look at me and breathe. Relax your muscles. Let your uterus do all the work." She then pulled a nursing student over and told her to hold my hand until my husband got there.

Just as I was about to start pushing my husband comes running into the delivery room. He was just in time because three pushes later Baby A, my daughter, was born (weighing in at 2 pounds 4 ounces). She was whisked away to the NICU before I could get a look at her. Our doctor immediately started having me push for Baby B. Unfortunately, he flipped sideways and became tangled in my pelvis and the doctor was unable to turn him. The entire room went quiet and someone said, "This is going to hurt" and a cloth was thrown over my face (I was later told it was my gown).

Six minutes later my son was born via emergency c-section weighing 2 lbs 2 oz and brought immediately to the NICU. My husband says that at about the time my gown was put over my face he was told to sit down and he was wheeled across the room towards the door. He only remembers hearing me yell "sweet Jesus," which does sound like something I'd say, and then being told to wait in the lobby.

After a brief and traumatic recovery room stay I was wheeled upstairs to the NICU to finally meet my babies. The story of their NICU stay is a long one and for a different time. Piecing together their birth story has helped me start to deal with the trauma and guilt. I have since learned to accept that my babies' early birth wasn't my fault and that I am not the only one who doesn't know the early warning signs of preterm labor — I can also assure you that if we decide to have more children I won't make the mistake of ignoring my body again.

For more information about the warning signs of preterm labor and for good advice on how to describe what you're feeling to your doctor, look over this March of Dimes fact sheet.

I get to hold my twins for the first time
Keren holding her babies for the first time!

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  1. They're beautiful and congratulations on a successful birth. And, thank you for this. I'm at 16 weeks and have been surprised at every turn at how healthy my pregnancy has been. I haven't gained a pound yet, no morning sickness, good news from my first trimester screening and great BP and heartrate numbers.

    I have these moments where I know I'm letting the good news lull me into a sense of security, probably because I was so anxious in the early weeks. I've also tried to stop reading anything "negative" when it comes to the birth.

    But all that could easily lead to me missing signs that I should be worried about. So, thank you for sharing your story. I'm going to go read that fact sheet and a few other things about preterm labor now, just in case.

    11 agree
  2. … are the babies okay?? What are their names? (I can't see pics at work, so forgive me if this info is embedded in the post!). :-)

    What a story, thank you so much for sharing it. It is an important reminder to remember to listen to our bodies. You did everything that felt right to you at the time, mama! I'm glad you've been able to start letting go of any guilt. What happened and how your babies came into this world was not your fault. You nurtured them and carried them along as long as you were able. Peace and best wishes to you and your family!

    6 agree
    • I just wanted to point out to Keren & anyone else that there's no reason to tell us the names of your children if you don't want to — some people like to share that info, and some don't.

      Also, while the info isn't in the post and you mentioned that you can't see the photo, when you click it to go to her Flickr stream there are lots of photos of two very cute kiddos. :)

      2 agree
    • I know! I always have to wait until I'm at home to look at pictures. (As if I'm supposed to be reading this while at work anyway…) Wow! what a story. I'm glad everyone is ok, and congratulations.

      1 agrees
    • Thanks for asking about my babies. they are both doing really well. Our daughter despite some very serious early complications has thrived. She's now a happy 20 lb cruising baby (toddler?). Our son has had a tougher time due to some chronic issues but is happy and growing.

      I'm also at work and shouldn't be online :)

      8 agree
  3. Oh my gosh! How scary! Thanks for sharing this story. It can be hard to distinguish regular pregnancy symptoms from labor especially if you're not expecting labor any time soon and it seems like a lot of people are just telling to you suck it up and be tougher. I'm glad to hear you're no longer feeling guilty about your beautiful birth story! All the best!

  4. A little over 2 weeks ago, I went into labor and delivered at 35 1/2 weeks. I had no risk factors, and my pregnancy had been very healthy. I had a good checkup two days prior. Our son had moderately serious breathing issues; we had not had sufficient warning to administer any steroids to help his lungs develop and he spent about a week on breathing support. Now we're just waiting for him to learn to eat before we can go home. Thank you for telling your story … I know that I likely could not have prevented our preterm labor, but that guilt is really hard to shake.

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    • Good luck in the NICU and I hope he gets to go home soon. Hopefully it's very soon. In the 77 days we were in the NICU the last few weeks where we waited for them to learn to eat was the most frustrating – they were so close but still so far to go. (( hugs mama ))

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      • Thank you! I'm looking forward to being a full-time mom. :)

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        • You already ARE a full time mom! Just cuz your baby is stuck in the NICU doesn't mean that you aren't his mom full time! I'm assuming you've worked your life around pumping and trying to eat and drink enough water and get in to see your baby and somehow sleep. You may not have the screaming 2am baby or the giant piles of laundry, but that does not a mother make! 😀

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          • Thanks. :) This is another area where I *know* that, but it still feels like somehow I'm cheating that there is a whole staff to take care of the changing and feeding in the middle of the night. Mom guilt takes all kinds of forms, huh?

  5. Are you saying that they did the c-section without anesthesia?

    1 agrees
    • Kind of. My sons umbilical cord came out first cutting off his O2 supply. So the Dr couldn't wait for anestisia. Luckily for me it was only a second or two before it did. I would have included that in the post but I only learner this last week after mtg w the delivery Dr to discuss future pregnancy complicates

      1 agrees
      • You are so strong, it's amazing. Your kids are really cute :)

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  6. That's a great picture! :)

    I'm glad the three of you were okay!

  7. Oddly this birth story was a joy to read. Probably because it had a happy ending. And I HAVE to say, though it's unfortunate when babies are born so early, your TINY little newborns ate the cutest, most adorable newborns I have EVER seen. And boy did I spend a lot of time looking at new born pics while I was preggers.

    I want to hug you for being such a strong mom, you go mama!

  8. This story is so precious – I'm good friends with and frequent babysitter for some now 4 year old 24-weekers, and what I've heard from their mom sounds so similar. I'm actually doing the March for Babies with them this weekend. (http://marchforbabies.org/) Congrats on having two amazing little miracles!

  9. This made me tear up terribly, and I'm at work too! Your babies are beautiful and you are an inspiration. I'm 30 weeks with my first, and terrified of labour and birth. Oddly, your story has made me feel a little better about it all! Thank you.

    2 agree
  10. Oooh congratulations on the birth of your babies! They`re absolutely beautiful! You must be soooo proud. I also had a 27 weeker who at 1lb 4oz also had many serious complications and 'pure hell' is just the best I can describe it.

    It does sadden me that people don`t realize how rough it is – I`ve even heard people be jealous, wishing they could also have such a tiny cute baby! Or celebrating at 24 weeks because they`re now 'viable' not realizing the survival rates and poor prognostics involved.

    Also… You probably know this but of the 5 parents of early preemie twins that I met during our NICU stay, 3 came home with only one baby and 1 with none at all… It was heartbreaking. It`s good you listened to your body and rushed to a hospital, and had time for both steroid shots! You are blessed to have both your little ones home with you! With the NICU journey behind you you must be soooo happy. My son has been home for over a year now and is overall doing great. Though I still have some guilt too I pinch myself every day and count our blessings to have him with us today.

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    • Congrats on your son. "Pure hell" is a pretty accurate description of nicu life w an early preemie. Watching our preemies grow really puts things in perspective for us.

      1 agrees
  11. Are You ok, if I can ask? No cervix left sounds quite, er, un good.

    2 agree
  12. I didn't know that I was in labour either until my waters broke at 35 1/2 weeks. I had menstrual-like cramps all day, which I thought for sure must be false labour. I had done so much reading about birth, and thought labour contractions would be intermittent, getting closer together, longer in duration, and more intense over time. My dull cramps, which were fairly easy to ignore, didn't match what I had been told to expect. Like others I had a very easy pregnancy and didn't anticipate any problems, so I decided I would just wait until my next Drs appointment a couple of days later and mention the cramps then. After my waters broke the cramps changed into contractions much more like what I expected, so we headed to the hospital. By the time I got there and they found me a bed I was 10cm dilated and had to push… I never imagined that it was possible to have such an quick labour experience – I had read so many birth stories and not one of them was like my experience… I had been told to expect a long, possibly difficult, delivery for my first baby and had spent a significant amount of time researching birthing techniques and pain management. My daughter was born 30 minutes after we arrived at the hospital weighing a very healthy 6lb 2oz and breathing fine on her own, which was a huge relief. Her hospital stay was 10 days long as she was very sleepy and needed some gavage feeding to supplement the breast feeding until her weight stabilized, but other than that she had no difficulties. She is now two months old and doing really well. I don't think anyone would know she was a month early anymore. I now warn all my pregnant friends to have everything ready at least a month before their baby is due, and the next time I am pregnant I will be heading to the hospital at the slightest twinge, as apparently second babies come even quicker…

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  13. Thank you for having the courage to write your story Karen. I know, personally, how hard it is to write this birth story especially when the birth is so emotionally painful. I too had a preemie born at 24 weeks. I suspect a lot of us preemie Mamas are doing some healing right now due to the upcoming March of Dimes walk this weekend. I read somewhere 1 in 9 pregnancies end in preterm labor and 50% of those are for unknown reason. I never knew this before. All I can say is, listen to your bodies Mamas and trust your gut when it tells you something's up. Also, babies are resilient and you are stronger than you ever know.

    2 agree
  14. My mom called my twin sister and I Baby A and Baby B, too, and we still use those names for each other. I know it is just how Doctors identify babies on sonograms, but, it still made me smile to see you use those terms. Yay, twins!

    2 agree
    • Hehe, we throw baby A and baby B around a lot. My sister teases me that we will give them complexes.

      • I'm a triplet born at 27 weeks. The nurses nicknamed us Hughey, Dewy and Louie 😉

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  15. Wow, what an amazing story. Thanks for throwing the MoD out there. I too am mom to a preemie and they are an amazing organization.

    1 agrees
  16. My friend's wife just went into labor with twins at 28 weeks. Both babies are totally healthy; they just decided it was time. By the time she got to the hospital, the little boy was crowning. Mommy can feed them, and they can also be held. The boy and girl are both alert and responsive. The goal is to get them released by their original due date in the summer.

    2 agree
  17. Wow, your story sounds so intense! Good for you for speaking out about what preterm labor feels like because I don't think many people know. My best friend (who's a med student) didn't know she was having early labor until she gave birth to her daughter at 24 weeks. Both mother and baby (turning 2 next month!) are doing fine.

    1 agrees
  18. Thanks for sharing your story. My son was born at 33 weeks. He's 18 months now – strong, growing, healthy. His preemie/NICU days seem like years ago. But it only takes a few sentences to bring me right back to it all.

    We (or maybe it was just me) were in complete denial that my wife was in labor. Like you, labor signs were everywhere. After we got in touch with the midwives I spent the better part of an hour researching false labor, because surely this wasn't happening to us. Oh boy.

    My wife is pregnant again, 27 weeks along. She's been taking progesterone shots the last ten weeks to help keep everyone where they should be until we reach term. While I loved your story you have to forgive me for not sending it her way. We think and worry about having another preemie experience everyday, and yours hits really close to home. We tell ourselves it won't happen again, but it's always there in the back of our minds.

    Still, it's good to hear a happy ending. Congratulations on bringing two beautiful kids into this world.

    1 agrees
    • thank you for sharing. I love hearing about healthy growing former preemies.

      We're in the talking about another pregnancy phase and the potential for another preemie scares us too. I wish you guys good luck and a long pregnancy.

  19. I started going into labor with my girl/boy twins at 29wks 1day. I literally had no warning signs. I was having a routine non-stress test when the nurse came in asking me if my contractions were hurting, I answered "what contractions?". When I got to the hospital my contractions were 2-5min apart and was slightly dilated. The medication they gave me never stopped the contractions at all – only spread them apart up to 15-30min. And it stayed that way until I delivered at 32wks 6days. My daughter was also born first and my son turned which way he was facing but didnt get stuck – so I had a successful vaginal delivery [so sorry for you double whammy].

    They are now 3yrs old and doing just fine.

    Now I am 18wks pregnant with another set of twins, possibly identical. (Yes both pregnancies were naturally conceived) And I am so scared of preterm labor again.

    9 agree
  20. Thank you for sharing your story. I have also had a great twin pregnancy (no sickness), but reading your story reminds me to listen to my body.

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