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Preterm Labor


Preterm (premature) labor occurs when the uterus contracts and your cervix opens earlier than normal. The cervix is the opening of your uterus. In preterm labor, contractions are strong enough and frequent enough to allow the cervix to open for delivery of your baby. Preterm labor happens after the 20th week of pregnancy but before the 37th week of pregnancy. An early labor could cause you to have your baby before he is ready to be born. Signs and symptoms include abdominal pain, menstrual-like cramping, low back pain, and vaginal spotting or bleeding.



  • Tocolytics: Tocolytics are given to stop contractions if your baby is not ready to be born. Contractions are when the muscles of your uterus tighten and loosen.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or obstetrician as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Ask your primary healthcare provider or obstetrician if it is okay for you to have sexual intercourse.

  • Rest as much as possible. Lying on your left side will improve circulation to the uterus. You may be able to prevent preterm labor by resting and reducing your physical activity.

  • Ask your caregiver if exercise is safe.

Contact your primary healthcare provider or obstetrician if:

  • You have abdominal cramps, pressure, or tightening.

  • You have a change in vaginal discharge.

  • You have burning when you urinate or you are urinating less.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your baby's umbilical cord is hanging out of your vagina.

  • You have bright red, painless vaginal bleeding.

  • Your symptoms do not get better or are getting worse.

  • Your water broke or you feel warm water gushing or trickling from your vagina.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.