Preterm Labor

Preterm labor is when your body goes into labor before the baby reaches 37 weeks of development.  Every week your baby spends in the womb is very important to its growth and development.  Delivering your baby early before it is done developing in the womb may create complications for your baby such as immature lung, digestion, brain, and immune development.  It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of preterm labor and report those symptoms to your provider as soon as they develop.

Signs and Symptoms of Preterm Labor:

  • Pelvic pressure
  • Lower back pain
  • Abdominal tightness or cramps
  • Contractions (more than 6 in one hour while at rest)
  • Fetus dropping low into pelvis before 36 weeks
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Diarrhea

If these symptoms develop, it is important to call your provider or go to the hospital.  Sometimes, these symptoms can mean other things and do not always mean you are going into preterm labor.  Once you see your provider, there are tests and assessments that can be performed to see if you are truly in labor.  If you are in labor, there are medications that can help stop or delay your labor.  Sometimes, labor cannot be stopped.  If this is the case, there are medications you can take before you deliver that will help your baby adjust to life outside of the womb.

The biggest risk factor for preterm delivery is a prior preterm birth.  If you have delivered a baby before 37 weeks and want to get pregnant again, it is important to tell your provider about your birth history.  There are medications you can take starting in early pregnancy that will reduce your chances of having another preterm birth.