Premature labor, also called preterm labor, is labor that starts before the completion of 36 weeks of pregnancy, or more than 3 weeks before your due date. Premature labor can often be stopped if you identify it early. Premature labor is related to 70% of infant deaths due to low birth weight. A low birth weight is defined as an infant weighing less than 5 lbs, 8oz or less at birth.
- Uterine Contractions -- If you feel like your uterus tightening or the baby balling up for four times or more in one hour.
- Menstrual-like Cramps -- Cramps like those you may have during your period may come and go, or be constant.
- Abdominal Cramps -- These feel like stomach cramps with or without diarrhea.
- Low Backache -- This is a backache near your tailbone that comes and goes or is there constantly.
- Pelvic Pressure -- This feels like the baby is pushing down in your vagina.
- Change in Vaginal Discharge -- There may be a sudden change in your discharge. It may increase, or become more mucousy, watery or slightly bloody.
What to Do
If you have one or more of these warning signs, you could be in premature labor. You should:
- Lie down
- Drink 2-3 glasses of water
- If the symptoms do not resolve in 1 hour, call your doctor immediately. Also call your doctor if you have any vaginal bleeding that is more than a light day of menstrual period or if you experience a sudden gush of fluid from your vagina.
Causes of Premature Labor
Experts do not really know the actual causes of premature labor, but some things that may put women at risk include:
- Previous premature labor or delivery of a premature baby
- Twin or triplet pregnancy
- Medical problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney or lung disease
- Abnormality of the uterus or cervix
- Abnormality of the placenta
- Women under 17 years
- DES exposure
Last Updated: 10/25/2013