Skip Navigation
  Print Page

Preterm Labor and Birth: Overview

Skip sharing on social media links
Share this:

In general, a normal human pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, or just more than 9 months, from the start of the last menstrual period to childbirth. Labor that begins before 37 weeks is called preterm labor (or premature labor). A birth that occurs before 37 weeks is considered a preterm birth.

Preterm birth is the most common cause of infant death and is the leading cause of long-term disability related to the nervous system in children.

The NICHD is working both on its own and in collaboration with other agencies and organizations to learn more about the causes of preterm labor and birth, improve ways to predict which women are at risk for preterm delivery, and identify prevention methods to reduce the number of infants born early.

The NICHD also is studying ways to improve care for infants born too early in order to reduce death and disability associated with preterm birth.

arrow pointing left For more information about this topic, select the Condition Information, Research Information, Clinical Trials, or Resources and Publications link in the menu on the left.

Common Names

  • Early labor
  • Premature labor
  • Premature delivery
  • Premature birth
  • Preemie (for infant born preterm)

Medical or Scientific Name

  • Preterm labor
  • Preterm birth
  • Preterm infant
  • Late-preterm birth
Last Updated Date: 03/11/2014
Last Reviewed Date: 11/06/2013
Vision National Institutes of Health Home BOND National Institues of Health Home Home Storz Lab: Section on Environmental Gene Regulation Home Machner Lab: Unit on Microbial Pathogenesis Home Division of Intramural Population Health Research Home Bonifacino Lab: Section on Intracellular Protein Trafficking Home Lilly Lab: Section on Gamete Development Home Lippincott-Schwartz Lab: Section on Organelle Biology