Know the Signs and Symptoms of Preterm Labor

Premature birth can cause health problems for your baby, so it is important to be on the alert for any symptoms that might warn of early labor. Preterm birth is defined as delivery before 37 full weeks’ gestation, or more than 3 weeks before your due date. Some of the signs and symptoms of preterm labor are subtle and are similar to the discomforts of late pregnancy.

Call your health care provider if you think you are having any of the following symptoms:

  • Six or more contractions in one hour. Preterm contractions do not have to be painful to cause labor.
  • Menstrual-like cramping low in your abdomen or back. Preterm labor can be similar to the feeling you have when you are about to start your menstrual period.
  • Pressure in the lower part of your abdomen, back or thighs described as a feeling of heaviness in your pelvis, as if the baby is pushing down.
  • A low, dull backache that does not feel better when you lie down.
  • Abdominal cramps, with or without diarrhea.
  • An increase or change in your vaginal discharge. It is normal to have a thick white discharge during pregnancy, but if it increases in amount, becomes watery or has blood in it, let your doctor know.
  • A general feeling that something is not quite right. Tell your health care provider if you do not feel well but are uncertain of the cause.

Other Pregnancy Concerns

Alert your health care provider immediately if you have any of these other pregnancy concerns:

  • Any vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • Less movement of the baby than normal
  • Fever, frequent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Pain or burning when you urinate
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • A slow trickle or sudden gush of fluid
  • Any other symptom(s) that do not feel right to you

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If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.