Preterm Labor

Preterm labor occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy. A baby born very early may not be ready to live outside of the uterus and is at greater risk of serious complications. Call your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of the preterm labor warning signs below. Your healthcare provider may use procedures to stop preterm labor, which gives your baby more time to develop inside you.

This mother holds her premature baby skin to skin as he receives food through a tube

Call Your Healthcare Provider

Preterm labor warning signs:

  • Change or increase in vaginal discharge (watery, mucus-like, or bloody)
  • Pelvic or lower abdominal pressure
  • Constant, low, dull backache
  • Mild abdominal cramps (with or without diarrhea)
  • Regular or frequent contractions that occur four or more times in one hour (may feel like a painless tightening of the uterus)
  • Water breaks in a trickle or a gush

Want More?


Preterm Labor Story : Watch one couple's personal experience to learn what to do if you experience signs of preterm labor.

Preterm Labor Story
view text Watch one couple's personal experience to learn what to do if you experience signs of preterm labor.

(Krysta) I was about 32 weeks along during my pregnancy, and I was getting ready for bed and I laid down for about five minutes and all of a sudden I felt like a whole bunch of like I couldn't control my water. So I went to the bathroom and realized it was a pinkish fluid and that it was odd to me that it was a different color, so I asked Ryan to call the doctor and see what to do and he told us to come in right away, that he thinks my water broke.

(Ryan) I was panicking and uh.. trying to get all the clothes and all the uhm.. the stuff together to go to the hospital. I was a little worried, but I knew that uhm.. the doctors know what they're doing and uhm.. there's a lot of medicines and technology out there to help- help the baby.

(Narrator) Once they arrived at the hospital, their doctor determined that Krysta was in preterm labor. She was given steroids to help the baby’s lungs develop quickly. She was also given medication to lessen the contractions that had started. The medication worked and they were able to keep the baby in the womb for eight more days.

(Krysta) Through the whole eight days my- the contractions were getting heavier and harder, harder to deal with, and finally they checked me and I was dilated to the point where I was gonna have him on the eighth day.

(Narrator) Their son Lylend was born at 33 weeks, weighing four pounds and four ounces.

(Ryan) The extra week he stayed in I think it helped quite a bit, 'cause he did gain some weight between when we first were admitted and the time he was delivered, uhm.. plus with the whole uhm.. steroids helping his lungs develop. It was kind of nerve-wracking with all the- the cords and stuff going to him, but uhm.. the doctor reassured us that, you know, it was a temporary thing that- just to help him, give him an extra boost in his breathing and in his oxygen and stuff.

(Krysta) His skin was kind of hairy, and that was normal for preemies, and he was a little bit orange from the jaundice that he had, but he looked pretty normal but really tiny.

(Narrator) Krysta and Ryan came to the hospital every day while their son was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to help with his care, feed him, and hold him. Here, Ryan holds Leland skin-to-skin on his bare chest, a recommended treatment for preemies called “kangaroo care.” After two weeks in the hospital, Lylend was breathing properly, gaining weight, and keeping a regular body temperature. Because he was doing so well, he was discharged and taken home.

(Krysta) He's on a little bit of oxygen but that's just to help him out a little bit, and besides that he's doing great. He's drinking good and he's gaining weight. I think every pregnant woman should learn the signs and symptoms of preterm labor. I never thought it could happen to me, and I'm glad that I did take that action and called my doctor instead of hesitating and staying.

print transcript

<Back Chapter One, Pregnancy | Preterm Labor Next>

You are viewing the demo version of Understanding Birth eClass.

The version allows access to only Chapter One. If you are a registered user, click here to log in and access the complete eClass. To order the eClass, contact the organization that shared this demo version with you.