A protein that is believed to help keep the amniotic sac glued to the lining of the uterus is called fetal fibronectin. The fluid-filled membrane that cushions your baby in the uterus is the amniotic sac.
Before the 22nd week of pregnancy, the fetal fibronectin is present in vaginal discharge and this will begin to break down towards the end of pregnancy.
Your doctor might test a swab of secretions near your cervix to check for the presence of fetal fibronectin between 22nd and 34th week of pregnancy if he is suspecting preterm labor, and this test is called fetal fibronectin test.
If this test is positive it means that you are at risk of preterm labor and that the “glue” has been disturbed.
2 Reasons for Procedure
Here are the most common reasons to undergo a fetal fibronectin test.
This test is not helpful for women who are at low risk of preterm labor because this test is used to rule out preterm labor but this can provide important information for pregnant women who have symptoms of preterm labor.
You doctor will take measurements to address premature birth such as giving medications to enhance the baby’s lung maturity if the result of this test is positive, but if the result is negative your pregnancy may continue for at least another week.
Fetal fibronectin test is a simple procedure but this can cause some risks, unnecessary treatments or anxiety if there are false-positive results which are common in this test.
4 Preparing for your Procedure
There is no need for any preparation for fetal fibronectin test. The test will be done before any vaginal ultrasound or pelvic exam to avoid false-positive result.
Vaginal bleeding can affect the results so you will be advised not to have sex for 24 hours before this test because your doctor will postpone your fetal fibronectin test if there is vaginal bleeding, and also if your water breaks.
Even if your baby is not yet full term, labor and delivery are inevitable if the amniotic sac is no longer intact.
5 What to Expect
Here you can find out what to expect from your procedure. You will lie back on a table during the fetal fibronectin test.
Your doctor will place a speculum in your vagina and will swipe secretions near the cervix using a cotton swab and then he will send the sample for analysis in the laboratory.
You will get your results in about 24 hours. For some people, they will undergo a vaginal ultrasound after the fetal fibronectin test.
Your doctor will place a slender and like device in your vagina and this will send out waves which will be reflected and digitally converted into images on a monitor.
These images will be used to measure the length of your cervix that often decreases before the labor begins and to assess your baby’s position, age, and size.
This ultrasound will take up about an hour and will not hurt you. If preterm labor is suspected, your doctor may suggest other treatments.
6 Procedure Results
The results of fetal fibronectin test may be positive or negative:
Positive – this means that fetal fibronectin is present in your cervical fluid and you are at risk of preterm labor if you have a positive result within the 22nd and 34th week or pregnancy.
Your doctor may give you instructions to prepare for a potentially early birth such as giving you medications to decrease the risk of neurological complications (cerebral palsy), giving you drugs to decrease contractions or give you steroids to speed your baby’s lung to maturity
Negative – this means that there is no fetal fibronectin present in your cervical fluid and that you will not deliver in the next two weeks meaning there is no risk or premature birth.
Recognizing preterm labor may give your doctor ways to improve your baby’s readiness for the birth or a chance to delay premature birth whether the test result is positive or negative.
Warning signs of preterm labor include:
constant low, dull backache
frequent or regular contractions which are a tightening sensation in the abdomen
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