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Q&A: Fibronectin Tests

Q. I called my doctor this morning because I was having cramps. I was afraid I was in labor already, even though there are weeks and weeks to go before my due date. She said I should come in for a fetal fibronectin test. I'm nervous. Does the test hurt? What will it tell me?

A. A lot of things can cause cramping during pregnancy that may be mistaken for preterm labor. The fetal fibronectin test is one way that your provider can decide whether this is true labor and whether you're in danger of delivering your baby immediately.

This test certainly won't hurt; the procedure is basically identical to a Pap smear. Your practitioner will swab your vaginal and cervical secretions and send the samples to a laboratory. A technician will then evaluate the secretions for any evidence of fetal fibronectin, a protein found in amniotic fluid.

The presence of fibronectin can indicate an increased risk of delivering your baby too early. If you test positive, your practitioner may ask you to decrease your activity or possibly to stay in the hospital. She may also prescribe medication to stop the contractions, or she may give you steroids to help your baby's lungs mature faster.

If the test is negative, your cramping is probably not a sign of preterm labor, and you are much less likely to be at risk of going into labor in the immediate future.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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