So you’re pregnant, and you’re experiencing some pain. Does that mean you’re in labor? It’s hard to say for sure, but there are a few things you can look out for to help you determine if it’s time to go to the hospital. This blog post will discuss premature labor and what signs and symptoms to look out for. We will also talk about how to know when it’s time to go to the hospital to get the care you need!
What is Premature Labor?
Premature or preterm labor is when your body starts getting ready for birth too early in your pregnancy. A normal pregnancy lasts for around 40 weeks. Premature labor occurs when a woman goes into labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Premature labor can be dangerous for both the mother and baby. It can lead to early birth, and the earlier the premature birth happens, the greater are the health risks for the baby. (WebMD, 2020)
Risk Factors of Premature Labor
While the specific cause of premature labor isn’t clear, some risk factors might increase the chances of early labor. Remember that early labor can also occur in pregnant women with no known risk factors.
Here are some of the risk factors:
- previous premature labor or premature birth,
- being pregnant with twins, triplets, or other multiples,
- problems with the uterus or placenta
Medical risk factors include recurring bladder or kidney infections, chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease or high blood pressure, underweight or overweight before pregnancy, an interval of fewer than 12 months between pregnancies, vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.
Some lifestyle risk factors include smoking or using illegal drugs, drinking alcohol, stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one, low income, lack of social support. (American Pregnancy Association, 2021)
Signs and Symptoms
One of the most common signs of premature labor is contractions. Contractions are rhythmic tightening of the muscles in your uterus. These contractions may start weak and get stronger over time, and they may or may not have pain associated with them. You may also experience cramping or backache.
Other symptoms of premature labor can include water breaking early, feeling pressure in the pelvis like the baby is pushing down, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, or lightheadedness.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s essential to contact your doctor or midwife right away. Premature labor requires medical attention, so don’t wait!
While it may not be possible to prevent premature labor, there are steps you can take to promote a healthy and full-term pregnancy.
For example, seek regular prenatal care as these prenatal visits help your health care provider monitor your and your baby’s health. You may need to visit your health care provider more frequently if you have a history of premature labor.
Quit smoking and stop the use of drugs and alcohol. Eating a healthy diet and managing chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity helps to reduce the risk of premature labor.
If you plan to use assisted reproductive technology (ART) to get pregnant, consider how many embryos will be transferred. There is an increased risk of premature labor in multiple pregnancies. (Mayo Clinic, 2022)
When to Go to the Hospital
Suppose you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms of premature labor. In that case, it’s essential to go to the hospital right away. The doctors will be able to evaluate and determine if you are in labor and how far along you are.
When the baby is born sooner than 37 weeks, it can lead to health problems, so premature babies must receive care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Premature labor is not always preventable, but there are things that you can do to promote a healthy, full-term pregnancy. By following the steps listed above, you can reduce your risk of premature labor and ensure that your baby is born as healthy as possible.
WebMD. “Premature (Preterm) Labor: Signs, Causes, and Treatments.” WebMD, WebMD, 2020,
American Pregnancy Association. “Premature Labor.” American Pregnancy Association, 9 Dec. 2021,
Mayo Clinic. “Preterm Labor.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 Feb. 2022, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/preterm-labor/symptoms-causes/syc-20376842.