Preterm labor is labor that starts before the 37th week of pregnancy. Babies born too early may have problems of many kinds. They may need to stay in the hospital for a long time. The earlier the baby is born, the more problems he or she may have. Preterm labor can happen to any woman, but some things increase the chance. Your health care team will ask you many questions to understand your chance of having preterm labor. If your risk is high for preterm labor, there is a greater chance that you might have a premature baby. If you know what to look for, you will be able to tell if preterm labor is happening to you. Then you can get help early.
Be Alert for Signs of Preterm Labor
- Contractions of the uterus - that are less than 10 minutes apart (6 or more contractions in an hour), that may be painless or may feel like the baby is "balling up".
- Cramps like those with your period - that come and go, or that don’t go away.
- Cramps in the abdomen or stomach - with or without diarrhea.
- Increase or change in vaginal discharge - watery or with mucus or blood.
- Low, dull backache - that comes and goes, or that doesn’t go away.
- Pressure - that feels like the baby is pushing down; comes and goes.
You May or May Not Feel Pain with Preterm Labor