What are the signs of pre-term labor?
About 40% of women do not feel the uterine contractions associated with pre-term labor (labor that occurs before 37 weeks of gestation) thus making it difficult to identify. In the remaining women the symptoms are so vague that they are interpreted as just normal pregnancy discomforts rather than labor. However, it is important to know the signs that can occur. Most women state after the baby is born that they felt exceptionally "crummy" that day with nausea, fatigue and increased urination. Contractions feel more like menstrual cramps, low in the abdomen with a backache. Practice contractions or Braxton-Hicks contractions tend to start high in the uterus and are rarely uncomfortable. These are not associated with pre-term labor. Have your doctor or midwife teach you how to time contractions so that you can feel the uterus' contraction with your hands and how to differentiate contractions. When in doubt call your doctor as pre-term labor progresses rapidly but can be halted with medication.
Donna Dixon, former HES Extension Associate, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
Last update: Tuesday, November 25, 2008