Preterm Labor and Premature Birth


Preterm labor is the precursor to premature birth, which is defined as birth before 37 weeks. It’s important to find out early if you are experiencing preterm labor. If you catch it early on, doctors may be able to delay it longer. These last few weeks of pregnancy are important in the development of your baby; however, hospitals are equipped with incubators to control the temperature, oxygen flow, and feeding of the baby, helping s/he to adapt and develop if premature birth is necessary. Usually, premature babies are easier and faster to deliver because their heads are smaller and softer than full-term babies.

Almost half of premature labor cases are from unknown causes. However, there are certain circumstances that can contribute to it.

  • Preeclampsia
  • Multiple births
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Uterine abnormalities
  • Stress
  • Anemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Overexertion

Preterm labor starts, usually without warning, when your membranes rupture (water breaks), or uterine contractions begin, or there’s vaginal bleeding before 37 weeks. If this happens, go to the hospital where you can be closely monitored and get the treatment necessary. However, if the contractions are not regular and don’t increase in frequency, the pain is in your lower abdomen (not back), contractions subside when walking, or if vaginal discharge is brownish, this may be false labor and isn’t cause for concern.

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Weiss, Robin Elise. “The Guide to Having a Baby.” F+W Publications, Inc. 2006. Eisenberg, Arlene; Murkoff, Heidi E.; Hathaway, Sandee E. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” Workman Publishing. 1996. Stoppard, Miriam. "Dr. Miriam Stoppard’s New Pregnancy and Birth Book.” Ballantine Books. 2009.