Preterm Labour

Preterm labour is defined as labour that begins before completion of 36 weeks of pregnancy.

Indicators of preterm labour

Indicators of preterm labour may not be obvious as many symptoms such as backache and pelvic pressure are often present during a normal pregnancy. It is likely that you will feel that something 'feels different' without actually being able to pinpoint it. You should be aware if there are any changes to the following:

  • Abdominal or Menstrual-like cramps - You may feel similar pain to when you are getting a period.
  • Low backache - You may feel low backache that cannot be relieved by changing position, and may come and go.
  • Pelvic pressure - You may feel you need to move your bowels, but with no result. It may feel as though the baby is about to 'fall out'. This feeling of pressure may be constant or may come and go.
  • Increase or change in vaginal discharge:
    • Change in type of discharge
    • Change in consistency or feel of discharge
    • Increased discharge
    • Change in colour, especially to a brown or pink
  • Contractions - Contractions for preterm labour are often less intense, and may only be felt by placing your fingers on the uterus. Note the frequency of these contractions. 

If you have any concerns, please contact your medical professional.

Preparing for preterm labour

How do you prepare for preterm labour?

  • Medical Plan for Mum - Speak with your doctor to understand your medical treatment plan. It may include the use of: 
    • Corticosteroids - Steroids are often given to the mother when preterm birth is likely.

      They have been shown to help with a baby’s development and lessen the chance of your baby having serious complications after birth, in particular, lung development.

    • Magnesium Sulphate - Studies show the use of magnesium sulphate reduces the risk of cerebral palsy in preterm babies as it significantly reduces neonatal brain injury associated with maternal inflammation or maternal infection.

  • Tour of the NICU/SCN - If the hospital allows, ask for a tour of the NICU/SCN.

  • Speak to a Neonatologist - Your neonatologist will be able to provide you with information on what is statistically likely to occur when your baby is born. Remember that these are statistics, and all babies present differently.

  • Refer to our NICU/SCN page to prepare for what may lay ahead.

Preparing for the worst (consideration of pregnancy loss)

Depending on the health of your baby and/or your gestation, you may consider the worst case scenario, that you may lose your baby. Yasminah's Gift of Hope have developed a brochure providing words of advice and details of other support organisations in this heartbreaking situation. You may also wish to consider services such as photographic memories that Heartfelt provides.