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Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

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Preterm labor

When your uterus starts contracting and changing the cervix before 37 weeks, it is called preterm labor. It means your baby could be born too early. These contractions may or may not be painful. They often feel like a firming of your entire uterus.

Tip

Call your health care provider or the hospital birth center right away if you:

  • have blood or fluid coming from your vagina
  • are less than 37 weeks pregnant and have had six or more contractions in one hour.

This is different from your baby's kicks or movements. Those feel like a fluttering, a sudden, soft poke, or a firming in just a small part of your uterus.

Here are some other signs of preterm labor:

  • change or increase in vaginal discharge
  • bleeding from your vagina
  • a sudden gush or leak of fluid from your vagina
  • a regular pattern of six or more contractions in one hour
  • menstrual-like cramps for more than one hour
  • increased pelvic pressure for more than one hour
  • intestinal cramping with or without diarrhea or indigestion for more than one hour
  • throbbing in the vagina, cramps in the thighs, or feeling your baby is pushing down
  • a feeling that things are not right.

If you have had a regular pattern of six or more contractions in 1 hour, it is important to call your health care provider. If you have blood or fluid coming from your vagina, call your health care provider or hospital birth center at once.

If you are having cramps, pressure, or pain, stop what you are doing. Drink two to three glasses of water or juice, empty your bladder, and lie down on your left side. Rest for an hour. If your symptoms get worse or haven't gone away after 1 hour, call your health care provider.


 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 08/22/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts