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What are the symptoms of preterm labor?

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Preterm labor is any labor that occurs from 20 weeks through 36 weeks of pregnancy. Here are the symptoms1:

  • Contractions (tightening of stomach muscles, or birth pains) every 10 minutes or more often
  • Change in vaginal discharge (leaking fluid or bleeding from the vagina)
  • Feeling of pressure in the pelvis (hip) area
  • Low, dull backache
  • Cramps that feel like menstrual cramps
  • Abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea

It is normal for pregnant women to have some uterine contractions throughout the day. It is not normal to have frequent uterine contractions, such as six or more in one hour. Frequent uterine contractions, or tightenings, may cause the cervix to begin to open.

If a woman thinks that she might be having preterm labor, she should call her doctor or go to the hospital to be evaluated.


  1. March of Dimes. (2008, 2010). Preterm labor. Retrieved April 18, 2012, from http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/preterm_indepth.html External Web Site Policy [top]

Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 11/06/2013
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