Everything You Need to Know About Preterm labor


What is preterm labor?


A normal or term pregnancy lasts 37 to 42 weeks. Preterm labor is labor that starts before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

What does this mean for your baby?


Preterm labor may lead to preterm birth, which means your baby may be born too soon. The earlier your baby is born preterm, the more likely he or she will have long-term health problems. Some preterm babies are very small and may not be strong enough to live.

Are you at risk to have premature labor?


Preterm labor can happen to anyone, even if you are healthy and “do all the right things”. Medical professionals have identified some factors that may increase your risk of having premature labor. Do any of these apply to you?

• Have had a preterm baby before
• Are carrying more than one baby, for example, twins
• Smoke or use illicit (“street”) drugs
• Were underweight when you became pregnant
• Are not getting enough healthy food
• Have a lot of stress in your life
• Have a vaginal or bladder infection
• Have had several miscarriages
• Work long hours (more than 8 hours a day or shift work)
• Do strenuous work, at home or through your job
• Are an adolescent
• Experience physical or emotional abuse
• Have a health condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure or bleeding.

What can you do to reduce your chance of preterm labor?


• Visit your healthcare provider regularly during pregnancy
• Learn to recognize the signs of preterm labor
• Quit smoking or at least cutdown and stay away from second-hand smoke
• Get plenty of rest
• Eat healthily
• Listen to your body, notice when things feel different and talk to your doctor or midwife about it
• Avoid strenuous work. Talk with your employer
• Find help to deal with tobacco, drugs, or violence issues. Talk to your health care provider, a social worker or someone you trust.

What are the warning signs?


• Bad cramps or stomach pains that don’t go away
• Trickle or gush of fluid, or bleeding from your vagina
• Lower back pain/pressure or change in lower backache
• A feeling that the baby is pushing down
• Contractions, or change in the strength or the number of them
• An increase in the amount of vaginal discharge
• Feeling that “something is not right”.

How do you know they are true preterm labor contractions?

True preterm labor contractions can feel different from the normal tightening that many women feel in the second half of pregnancy known as False/Pre-Labor Contractions or Braxton Hicks.

Am I really in labor?



False/Pre-Labor.True Labor. 
Contractions are irregular and do not become stronger.Become stronger. Contractions get longer, stronger, and closer over time.
Contractions are felt in the abdomen.Contractions may be felt in the lower back and radiate to the abdomen.
Change in position may relieve discomfort.Discomfort. Change in position does not provide relief and may increase discomfort.
No rupture of membranes.Membranes rupture.
No bloody show.Bloody show usually present.
Cervix is not dilated or effaced.Cervix is dilated and effaced.

What do you do if you think you are in preterm labor?


If you have the above signs of preterm labor GO TO THE HOSPITAL RIGHT AWAY! You need to be assessed by a doctor or a midwife to confirm if you are in preterm labor.

Looking for more information? 

Preterm Labor (Best Start)  
Preterm Labor (Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada) 
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