What Are the Warning Signs of Premature Labor?


Experiencing preterm labor can be a frightening experience. If you are pregnant and begin having symptoms of premature labor, you need to seek medical care immediately. Preterm labor is defined as contractions leading to your cervix opening between weeks 20 and 37 of pregnancy. When a baby is born prematurely, they might face more health risks. Many premature infants require specialized care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and can also sustain lifelong mental and physical disabilities. Here are the symptoms of premature labor and how to address them from the Philadelphia birth injury attorneys at Raynes & Lawn.

Signs of Premature Labor

The signs of premature labor include the following:

  • Regular contractions
  • Dull ache in the lower back
  • Pressure in the pelvic or lower abdominal area
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Spotting
  • Water breaking
  • Change in vaginal discharge

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately.

Risk Factors for Preterm Labor

There is no known cause of preterm labor, and it can occur in any pregnancy.

However, there are certain risk factors that are associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing preterm labor, including the following:

  • Previous premature birth or preterm labor
  • Pregnancy with multiples
  • Placental or uterine problems
  • Short cervix
  • Smoking
  • Illicit drug use
  • Infections
  • Certain chronic conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, depression, or autoimmune disorders
  • Stress
  • Vaginal bleeding throughout pregnancy
  • Fetal birth defect
  • Short or long interval between pregnancies
  • Excess amniotic fluid
  • Very young or old maternal age
  • Black mother


The complications of preterm labor and premature birth include the following:

  • Low birth weight
  • Vision problems
  • Underdeveloped organs
  • Breathing problems
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Learning disabilities


Preventing Preterm Labor

While it is not possible to prevent preterm labor in all cases, there are things you can do to facilitate a full-term, healthy pregnancy.

Some of the things you can do to reduce your risk of preterm labor include the following:

  • Keep all prenatal appointments
  • Follow a healthy, nutritious diet
  • Don’t smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs
  • Space your pregnancies more than 12 months but less than 59 months apart
  • Manage chronic conditions

If your doctor believes that you have an increased risk of preterm labor, they might recommend other steps to help reduce your risk.

How Is Preterm Labor Diagnosed?

If preterm labor is suspected, your doctor will first review your risk factors for preterm labor and your medical history. They will then evaluate your symptoms. If you are experiencing regular contractions combined with a softening of your cervix before reaching 37 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor will likely diagnose you with preterm labor.

Some of the tests doctors use to diagnose preterm labor include the following:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Ultrasound
  • Uterine monitoring
  • Lab tests to check for infections

How Is Preterm Labor Diagnosed?

If you are in labor can’t stop it beyond temporarily. However, your doctor might prescribe corticosteroids to help your baby’s lungs develop if you are believed to have an increased risk of delivery within one to seven days. magnesium sulfate might be prescribed if you are at risk of delivering prematurely between 24 and 32 weeks of pregnancy to help reduce the risk of cerebral palsy. Tocolytics might be prescribed to slow your contraction to allow the corticosteroids to provide the maximum benefits to your baby’s lungs. If you have a short cervix, your doctor might recommend a cervical cerclage procedure. This procedure involves stitching the cervix closed. The suture will be removed after you reach 36 weeks of pregnancy or earlier if necessary.


If you have a history of delivering prematurely, your doctor might recommend weekly progesterone shots beginning in your second trimester through week 36. You might also be provided vaginal progesterone suppositories to help to prevent preterm labor. Recently, research has suggested that vaginal progesterone suppositories might be as effective as a cervical cerclage in preventing premature birth for some women. Suppositories also provide the advantage of not requiring anesthesia or surgery. Some contractions you might experience during pregnancy could be Braxton Hicks contractions. These are common and do not necessarily mean that your cervix is beginning to soften or open. If you think that your contractions might be a sign of preterm labor, try resting, walking, or changing positions. Doing so might help to stop false contractions. If you are truly in preterm labor, however, your contractions won’t stop when you walk or change positions.

Talk to Our Philadelphia Birth Injury Attorneys

If your baby was born prematurely and suffered complications after your doctor failed to correctly diagnose you with preterm labor, you should speak to the Philadelphia birth injury attorneys at Raynes & Lawn. We can review your medical records and help you understand whether your birth injury claim might be viable and what your legal options might be. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn about your potential rights by calling 1-800-535-1797.


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