In most pregnancies, labor begins during the 38th to 42nd week. Premature or pre-term labor starts before the end of the 37th week of pregnancy. If labor begins too early in the pregnancy, the baby may be born premature, which can be problematic to the baby. If premature labor can be stopped early enough, the baby has a better chance of being healthier.
Risk factors may include:
Previous premature labor with this pregnancy or other pregnancies.
Pregnant with twins, triplets, or more.
Abnormal uterus (womb).
Previous cocaine usage.
Infrequent or no prenatal care.
Bleeding during 2nd or 3rd trimesters.
Infection while pregnant.
Surgery during this pregnancy, especially abdominal.
Previous abortions during the 2nd trimester.
Symptoms may include:
Increase or change of type of vaginal discharge, which may include vaginal bleeding.
Contractions that are regular.
Pressure in the pelvis, back, or lower abdominal area, or cramping of the abdomen.
Ruptured membranes or your water breaks.
What your doctor can do:
The goal in preterm labor is to stop the labor until the baby is mature enough to be born. Your health is considered in this goal as well.
Order bedrest or limited activity. This and avoiding dehydration can sometimes be enough to stop contractions.
Prescribe certain drugs to stop contractions
Contact your doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed above or a history of any of the risk factors.