Preterm Labor: What You Need to Know

Close-up of pregnant woman relaxing and sitting on the side on the sofa. Holding a hands on the tummy.

Preterm labor, also called premature labor, is when your body starts getting ready for birth too early. A pregnancy is premature if it starts more than three weeks before the due date. Preterm labor can result in a premature birth. This is when you give birth too early. Birthing a child too early can lead to health concerns for your newborn.

Risk Factors for Preterm Labor

  • A family or personal history of preterm labor
  • Being pregnant with twins, triplets, etc.
  • Health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and/or infections (urinary tract or sexually-transmitted)
  • Having issues with your placenta, cervix, or uterus
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol or using street drugs
  • Being under the age of 18 or over the age of 35
  • Social concerns such as a lack of support, domestic violence and/or high levels of stress
  • Not going to the doctor for prenatal visits

Signs and Symptoms

  • Clear, watery, pink or brownish discharge
  • A change in vaginal discharge (more than usual)
  • Vaginal bleeding after 20 weeks
  • Cramping in your lower stomach
  • Pressure in your pelvis/vagina
  • Dull, low back pain
  • Frequent, or consistent, contractions less than 10 minutes apart
  • Your water breaks

If you have any of these symptoms, please contact your doctor’s office for medical advice.

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