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Preterm Labor Symptoms and Signs

What is preterm labor?

Preterm or premature labor happens when you go into labor three or more weeks before your due date. This is too early, and your baby could be born too soon. Babies born too soon can have lifelong or life-threatening health problems.

Can preterm labor be stopped?

Many women are given drugs to try to delay or stop preterm labor. In some cases, birth can be delayed long enough to transport Mom to a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Women may also be given medications that can improve the baby's health.

Warning Signs of Preterm Labor

Here are the warning signs:

  • Contractions every 10 minutes or more often (they don't have to be painful)
  • Clear, pink or brownish fluid (water) leaking from your vagina
  • The feeling that your baby is pushing down
  • Low, dull backache
  • Cramps that feel like your period
  • Cramps with or without diarrhea

What should I do if I think I'm having preterm labor?

Call your health care provider (nurse, doctor or midwife) or go to the hospital right away if you think you're having preterm labor, or if you have any of the warning signs. Call even if you have only one sign.

Your health care provider may tell you to:

  • Come into the office or go to the hospital for a checkup.
  • Stop what you're doing. Rest on your left side for one hour.
  • Stop what you're doing. Rest on your left side for one hour.

If the symptoms get worse or do not go away after one hour, call your provider again or go to the hospital. If the symptoms get better, relax for the rest of the day.