Preterm labor is a very serious pregnancy complication that leads to many cases of preterm births and neonatal mortality. In fact, it is one of the main causes of infant deaths and lingering infant illnesses all across the world. Though it cannot be completely prevented, early identification of the symptoms can help in prolonging the pregnancy and better management of the condition.

Preterm labor is generally characterized by the presence of uterine contractions which are frequent and strong enough to cause dilation of the cervix before completion of the term, more specifically between the 20th and 37th week of pregnancy. However, the contractions are not always painful and you need to look for other subtle signs of preterm labor.

Various Symptoms Of Preterm Labor

Presence Of Contractions

Preterm rhythmic uterine contractions almost always indicate the onset of labor. Though most of the preterm irregular contractions are usually Braxton-Hicks, at times true contractions may also seem irregular due to a few missed ones.

These contractions may also appear as menstrual cramps that are felt just above the pubic bone. In case you experience any uterine contractions before the completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is advisable to see your doctor on an urgent basis irrespective of whether the cramps are irregular or rhythmic.

Sensations Of Pressure

Any sensation of pressure in the pelvic region and a feeling of fullness could indicate the onset of a preterm labor and should not be ignored. The feeling of pressure may also radiate to the back and thighs.

Low, Dull Back Pain

An unusual, persistent, dull backache that feels different than normal may indicate a preterm labor. However, it should not be confused with the general backache that results in late pregnancy due to the growing foetus.

Vaginal Bleeding Or Blood-tinged Discharge

preterm labor symptoms

Dilation of the cervix resulting due to preterm labor may lead to some vaginal bleeding and should be brought to your doctor’s notice immediately. Presence of blood tinged discharge indicates loss of the mucous plug and is a preterm labor symptom. A change in the colour of the vaginal discharge from pink to brown may also indicate the onset of preterm labor.

Vaginal Twinges

Vaginal twinges, specifically in the cervical region can be a symptom of preterm labor. It results due to the gradual effacement of the cervix.

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Intestinal Cramps

Persistent intestinal cramps with or without diarrhoea may also indicate a preterm labor. These cramps are often confused with gas pain and therefore go unnoticed.

Apart from the above mentioned symptoms, a general feeling of being unwell without any known cause may also be indicative of the onset of pre-term labor and therefore should not be ignored. Any change from your normal patterns should be reported to the doctor immediately.

It is important to be aware of your situation and constantly monitor your pregnancy in case you are at an increased risk of preterm labor. Certain illnesses, past episodes of preterm births, drug or alcohol addiction and environmental factors usually put a woman at an increased risk of preterm labor. Though you cannot control all the factors, being aware of your condition can help you prepare for such situations and associated risks.