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Preterm labor is labor that starts before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. Your baby can have serious health problems if born too early.
Delivery can sometimes be prevented or delayed, giving your baby more time to grow. It can be difficult to tell the differences between true and preterm labor. Your health care provider can tell if you have preterm labor by giving you an exam and finding changes
in your cervix.
Warning signs of preterm labor include:
Your uterus is shaped like a pear, sitting upside down in your pelvis. The "stem end" is called the cervix, which is the neck, or opening, at the bottom of your uterus.
The wall of your uterus is a muscle. When this muscle contracts, it becomes hard and tight just as any other muscle in your body would. When the contraction stops, your uterus becomes soft again.
Contractions can feel like a tightening sensation, like menstrual cramps, a dull backache or pain on the front of the thighs.
It is normal for your uterus to contract at times during your pregnancy. Your uterus is contracting too much if you feel six or more contractions an hour.
To check for contractions:
If you think your water has broken, or if you are having heavy bleeding, call your health care provider or the hospital birth center at once.
If you are having cramps or pain:
Recheck your symptoms. If you still have signs of labor, call your health care provider.
At the hospital, your health care provider may want to do some or all of the following tests:
There are many ways to treat preterm labor. They include:
Many times, preterm labor can be treated at home. Other times, a hospital stay is needed. Your health care provider will help determine which is right for you.
Your health care provider will tell you if you have any activity restrictions.
Allina Patient Education, Preterm Labor, ob-ahc-12617
Allina Patient Education experts