What is premature labor?

A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. Occasionally, labor begins prematurely, before the 37th week of pregnancy. This happens because uterine contractions cause the cervix to open earlier than normal. Consequently, the baby is born premature and can be at risk for health problems.

Fortunately, research, technology and medicine have helped improve the health of premature babies.

Risk factors of premature labor:

Although the specific causes of premature labor are not yet known, certain factors may increase a woman’s risk of having premature labor. However, having a specific risk factor does not mean a woman will experience premature labor. A woman might have premature labor for no apparent reason.

If you have any of the following risk factors, it is important to know the symptoms of premature labor and what to do if it occurs:

Women are at greatest risk for premature labor if:

  • They are pregnant with multiples
  • They have had a previous premature birth
  • They have certain uterine or cervical abnormalities

Medical risk factors include:

  • Recurring bladder and/or kidney infections
  • Urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, and sexually transmitted infections
  • Infection with fever greater than 101 degrees F during pregnancy
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding after 20 weeks of pregnancy
  • Chronic illness such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes
  • Multiple first trimester abortions or one or more second trimester abortions
  • Underweight or overweight before pregnancy
  • Clotting disorder (thrombophilia)
  • Being pregnant with a single fetus after in vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Short time between pregnancies (less than 6-9 months between birth and beginning of the next pregnancy)

Premature Labor: Symptoms And Treatment:

Pregnancy is normally a time of happiness and anticipation, but it can also be a time of uncertainty. Many women have concerns about what is happening with their baby and wonder “Is everything okay”? Some women have concerns about going into labor early.

Premature labor occurs in about 12% of all pregnancies. However, by knowing the symptoms and avoiding particular risk factors, a woman can reduce her chance of going into labor prematurely.