Premature Labour and its Occurrence

Also known as preterm labour, premature labour begins when your body starts getting ready for delivery a little too early. A premature birth can happen as early as 25 weeks and as late as 36 weeks; basically before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It is also likely that your baby will develop health problems if born prematurely.

Signs of Premature Labour

It is important to know the warning signs of premature labour in order to prevent it. You can make a big difference if you act fast. Call your doctor when you experience:-

  • Persistent aching of your lower back
  • Menstrual-like cramps 
  • Contractions at intervals of 10 minutes or more frequent
  • Fluid leaking from the vagina
  • Feeling nauseated, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Increase pelvic pressure
  • Vaginal bleeding – even if it is light bleeding

Some of the signs may seem like normal labour symptoms. Read about signs and stages of labour here. However, it is recommendable to be cautious. Talk to your doctor or consult a health professional about any warning signs.

What Causes It?

Preterm labour can be as a result of maternal factors, issues with the pregnancy, or foetus issues. Maternal factors include:-

  • Chronic illness such as kidney or heart disease
  • Preeclampsia 
  • InfectionS such as UTI, Group B streptococcus (GBS), and vaginal infections)
  • Drug abuse
  • Cervical incompetence
  • Abnormal uterine structure 
  • Previous preterm birth

Issues that may involve the pregnancy are such as:-

  • Placenta previa
  • Placental abruption
  • Amniotic sac rupture
  • Too much amniotic fluid

Issues related to the foetus may include:-

  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Rh/blood group incompatibility also known as Erythroblastosis fetalis
  • When the intrauterine environment limits the growth of the foetus

How does Premature Labour Happen?

Premature labour may start by itself. However half of them happen through preterm induction. It usually follows a woman who has developed a life-threatening complication. It may also be due to Intrauterine growth restriction, IUGR, a condition where an unborn baby has delayed growth. Your doctor may decide that it may be safer to deliver the baby early. Preterm labour is usually much faster than full-term labour. You will move through the stages of labour faster. 

The healthcare team will closely monitor you and your baby, ready to perform an emergency cesarean procedure if necessary.

After Birth Care

Your baby may need extra care after his/her birth. You will spend most weeks and maybe months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). It may be daunting at first, but your premature baby will be in good and much-needed care. The amount of time your baby spends in the neonatal care will depend on the level of care required. Your baby will be released to go home after when they show signs of health and growth. 


#Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

#Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.

Last reviewed January 2019

Sources: webmd, mayoclinic, kidshealth

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