Labor that begins before week 37 is called "preterm" or "premature." Around 1 out of every 10 babies born in the United States is preterm.
A preterm birth is one of the major reasons why babies are born disabled or die. But, good prenatal care improves the chances that a preterm baby will do well.
You need see a doctor right away if you have:
Problems or test results that occur during the pregnancy and can lead to preterm labor include:
The mother’s health problems or lifestyle choices that can lead to preterm labor include:
Problems with the placenta, uterus, cervix that can lead to preterm labor:
To reduce your risk of preterm labor, follow your doctor’s advice. Call your doctor as soon as you can if you think you are having preterm labor.
Prenatal care lowers the risk of having your baby too early. See your doctor as soon as you think you're pregnant. You should also:
It is even better to start seeing your doctor if you are planning to have a baby but are not yet pregnant. Be as healthy as you can be before getting pregnant:
Women with a history of preterm delivery may need weekly injections with the hormone progesterone. Be sure to tell your provider if you had a previous premature birth.
Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these signs before your 37thweek of pregnancy
Your doctor or midwife can do an exam to see if you are having preterm labor.
Updated by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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