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Symptoms of preterm labor can occur anytime before your 37th week of pregnancy. Preterm labor contractions may or may not feel different from normal labor contractions. In many cases, it is hard to tell the difference between preterm contractions and normal aches or baby movements. Talk with your doctor about the signs of preterm labor.

The signs and symptoms of preterm labor include:

  • Contractions every 10 minutes or more
  • Watery discharge from your vagina
  • Light vaginal spotting or bleeding
  • Pressure on your pelvis that feels as if your baby is pushing down
  • Low, dull backache
  • Menstrual-like cramps that come and go
  • Abdominal cramps that may occur with diarrhea

Call your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms or any unusual sensations.

Revision Information

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG practice bulletin no. 31: Assessment of risk factors for preterm birth. Obstet Gynecol . 2001 Oct;98(4):709-716.

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG practice bulletin no. 127: Management of preterm labor. Obstet Gynecol . 2012 Jun;119(6):1308-1317.

  • Premature labor. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/labornbirth/prematurelabor.html . Updated May 2007. Accessed October 9, 2012.

  • Preterm labor. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq087.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121009T0455409103 . Accessed October 9, 2012.

  • Preterm labor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated June 13, 2012. Accessed October 9, 2012.

  • Preterm labor and birth. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/preterm/Pages/default.aspx . Accessed October 9, 2012.

  • Weismiller DG. Preterm labor. Am Fam Physician . 1999 Feb 1;59(3):593-602. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0201/p593.html . Accessed October 9, 2012.