Preterm Labor

Babies born prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy may experience various problems due to incomplete growth and development. They may experience problems of varying severity depending on their development. Because a preterm birth can affect your child for years to come, it is important that you are aware of the signs and symptoms of preterm labor so you can identify preterm labor as early as possible and help prolong your pregnancy.

If you are having preterm labor, your doctors/midwives and nurses may suggest a number of things for you to consider:

  • Rest
  • Fluid intake
  • Bedrest
  • Activity
  • Work related activities
  • Sexual activity

And place a strong emphasis on:

  • Being aware of the signs and symptoms of preterm
  • labor
  • Being aware of the various techniques to monitor your uterine contractions or tightening

Preterm Labor

Labor is the process by which the uterus contracts and causes the cervix to open and prepare for delivery. Preterm labor occurs when this process takes place prior to your 37th week of pregnancy. These changes can be difficult to detect. Your role in the early identification of labor is to monitor your uterine contractions and report the signs and symptoms of preterm labor to your doctors/midwives.

The cause of preterm labor is not completely understood. However, it is known that certain situations are associated with preterm labor and may increase your risk of experiencing a preterm delivery. The most common factors associated with preterm labor include; a current pregnancy of twins or triplets, and/or having experienced a prior preterm delivery.

At this time preterm labor cannot be prevented. We can only do the next best thing -- identify it early and treat it effectively to help prolong the pregnancy. Early recognition of the signs and symptoms of preterm labor can help better manage your pregnancy.

Because you are the only person who can be aware of your body`s normal activity, you should be the one to identify anything that is not normal including the early signs and symptoms of preterm labor.

What is normal?

  • Occasional uterine contractions
  • Backache as your baby grows and causes your posture to change.
  • Pressure as your growing baby presses on your pubic bone and your legs
  • Pulling and stretching of muscles as the uterus grows that may cause pain

What is NOT normal?

  • Regular uterine contractions
  • Rhythmic, lower abdominal cramps
  • Persistent low, dull backache that feels different that what you normally experience
  • Persistent diarrhea or intestinal cramps
  • Unusual rhythmic or persistent pelvic pressure
  • A large amount of mucous or water leaking from the vagina
  • A change in color of vaginal discharge to pink or brown

Remember it is important to know what is normal for you. Then you will know how to identify what is NOT normal.

Signs and Symptoms of Preterm Labor

The following are signs and symptoms that are associated with preterm labor. However, these signs can also be a part of a normal healthy pregnancy. What you need to keep in mind is what may represent a change from your normal patterns and experiences: