What's preterm labor and how do I know if I am experiencing it?

Preterm labor is defined as delivering your baby before 37 weeks. Some preterm babies are born intentionally early due to health conditions (ie preeclampsia or growth issues), while others are known as spontaneous preterm births. 

Whether or not your baby survives preterm labor depends on how close they are to the “full term” 40 weeks. Premature babies born between 34 and 37 weeks are usually OK, although they’re still at an elevated risk for short and long-term problems compared to babies born full term. On the flip side are the babies who are born extremely premature. These days, some babies born as early as 24 weeks have a great chance of surviving, but these extremely preterm infants require significant medical interventions and long stays in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

Call your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • An increase in vaginal discharge
  • A change in consistency of discharge (ie watery, mucus-like, or bloody)
  • Bleeding or spotting
  • Abdominal pain, menstrual-like cramping, or more than four contraction-like feelings in one hour 
  • An increase in pressure in the pelvic area (ie like your baby is bearing down)
  • Spontaneous lower back pain