Premature birth—babies born before 37 weeks—is a complicated problem with no single solution. About 380,000 babies are born prematurely annually in the U.S. Premature babies may face long-term health problems. Even women without risk factors can still have preterm labor and premature birth. Find out the signs and symptoms as well as the risk factors of preterm labor.
What are the signs and symptoms of preterm labor?
If you have even one of these signs and symptoms of preterm labor, call your doctor right away:
- Your vaginal discharge is bloody or more vaginal discharge than usual
- Pressure in your pelvis
- Continuous backache
- Stomach cramps
- Regular or frequent contractions
- Your water breaks
What are risk factors for preterm labor and premature birth?
Three significant risk factors are:
- You’ve already had a premature baby.
- You’re pregnant with twins or other multiples.
- Getting pregnant again within 18 months of giving birth.
Health conditions can increase your risk for preterm labor and premature birth, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and some sexually transmitted infections. Age can also be a factor. Giving birth as a teenager or after 35 can increase the chances you’ll have an early labor.
Can I reduce my risk for preterm labor and premature birth?
While some risk factors are things you can’t change, such as already having a premature birth, you can take concrete steps to reduce your risk for preterm labor and premature birth:
- Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about what is a recommended weight.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
- Get proper prenatal care.
- Get treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes, and thyroid problems.
- Wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again.
Do you have questions about your pregnancy? To schedule a prenatal appointment, call (479) 582-9268.