Preterm Labor

Preterm labour (PTL) is a major public health concern, with an estimated 15 million births affected every year worldwide. It occurs when birth takes place before 37 weeks of pregnancy and can lead to complications for both mother and baby. PTL is associated with preterm birth, low birth weight, and neonatal death in many countries, affecting not only the physical health of those impacted but also their financial stability.

Types of Preterm Labour

There are two main types of Preterm labour: Spontaneous preterm labour and indicated preterm labour. Spontaneous preterm labour is when labour starts on its own before the baby has reached 37 weeks of gestation. Indicated preterm labour is when a clinician decides that it is safest to deliver the baby early, usually due to a medical reason or concern. Other types of Preterm labour include Prolonged Rupture of Membranes (PROM), which is when the water around the baby breaks more than 24 hours before delivery, and Abruptio Placentae, which is when the placenta partially or completely separates from the uterus before delivery.

Symptoms of Preterm Labour

The most common symptom of preterm labour is regular, painful uterine contractions every 10 minutes or more often. Other symptoms include changes in vaginal discharge, lower back pain, abdominal cramps, pressure in the pelvis/lower abdomen, and pelvic area, and an increase or change in vaginal discharge. Some women also experience an increased urge to urinate or a feeling of fullness in the pelvic area.

When should one see a doctor for Preterm Labour?

It is important to see a doctor if any of the following symptoms are experienced: regular contractions that occur every 10 minutes or less; a dull ache in the lower back that doesn't go away; watery fluid leaking from the vagina; pelvic pressure; and vaginal bleeding. These signs may indicate preterm labour, so medical advice should be sought immediately. A doctor will be able to assess whether these symptoms are due to preterm labour or another health issue.

How should one prevent Preterm Labour?

Preterm labour can be prevented by taking certain measures. Firstly, pregnant women should ensure they have regular antenatal care and keep their healthcare provider informed of any changes in their pregnancy. Secondly, women should maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat a balanced diet, and refrain from smoking, drugs, and alcohol during pregnancy. Additionally, women should also avoid any strenuous activity, such as lifting heavy objects or standing for long periods. Finally, if a woman is at risk of preterm labour, she may be prescribed medication to reduce her risk.

Risks or complications associated with Preterm Labour

Preterm labour can have various risks and complications for both the mother and the baby. These can include an increased risk of infection, breathing difficulties due to underdeveloped lungs, developmental delays due to lack of time in the womb, jaundice due to an immature liver, anaemia, cerebral palsy, and gastrointestinal problems. Additionally, a preterm baby is more likely to experience long-term health problems such as asthma or vision issues. For the mother, preterm labour can lead to haemorrhage or uterine rupture. In extreme cases, it can be life-threatening.


Preterm labour is a serious health issue for pregnant women and their babies. It is important for women to understand the signs and risk factors associated with preterm labour and to speak to their healthcare provider if they experience any symptoms. With early diagnosis and proper management, preterm labour can be treated in a way that helps both mother and baby have the best possible outcome. In conclusion, preterm labour is a medical condition that requires careful monitoring, early diagnosis, and timely interventions to ensure the best outcomes for mothers and their babies.

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1. What is the cause of preterm labour?

Preterm labour is most commonly caused by a combination of factors, including premature rupture of membranes, maternal infection, cervical insufficiency, and other medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

2. How can preterm labour be prevented?

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent preterm labour, various strategies can help reduce the risk, such as avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy and getting regular prenatal care. Additionally, bed rest may be recommended for women at high risk for preterm labour.

3. What treatments are available for preterm labour?

The primary treatment for women experiencing preterm labour is to stop or delay contractions with medications such as magnesium sulphate and terbutaline; however, if delivery becomes necessary before 37 weeks gestation, additional treatments may be needed to help ensure the baby’s health and reduce complications associated with prematurity.

4. What other complications may arise from preterm labour?

Complications resulting from preterm labour may include premature birth with associated health risks such as the increased risk of developmental delays.

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