Preterm labour: What do I need to know?

Pregnant woman having back pains

An estimated 15 million babies are born too early every year. That is more than 1 in 10 babies.”
World Health Organization

What is preterm labour?

Normal labour usually happens between 37 to 42 weeks in pregnancy. Preterm labour is labour that happens before 37 completed weeks.  What’s worrisome is that preterm labour can lead to preterm birth (or early birth).

Some concerns for babies born too early (sometimes referred to as premature) may include problems with breathing, feeding, and staying warm.  Some babies that are born too soon may need special care for only a short amount of time while others may have lifelong needs.

What are signs of preterm labour?

  • Regular contractions that do not go away even when lying down or changing position
  • Blood or fluid leaking from the vagina
  • Pressure in the pelvis
  • A feeling like the baby is pushing down
  • A feeling like something is not right

Can preterm labour happen to me?

The answer is “yes”. Even when you are healthy and “doing everything right”, there is still a chance that preterm labour can happen to you.  Some of the things known to increase your chances of having preterm labour include:

  • Previous preterm birth
  • Previous baby with low birth weight
  • Being pregnant with more than one baby
  • Major stress in your life

What should I do if I think I am in preterm labour?

Go to the hospital right away.  You will need to be assessed by a doctor or midwife to confirm that you are in preterm labour.

What can I do to reduce the chance of preterm labour?

All the causes for preterm labour are not known yet research has shown that there are some things that can be done to reduce the chance of it happening. Some of these things are:

  • Getting prenatal care as early as possible in your pregnancy and continuing to see your health care provider regularly
  • Registering for an online or in-class prenatal program to learn about having a healthy pregnancy
  • Eating healthy during pregnancy
  • Quitting or decreasing the amount of smoking
  • Avoiding standing for long periods of time
  • Learning everything you can about preterm labour

If you have questions about preterm labour, be sure to speak with your health care provider.

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