Preterm is defined as babies born before 37 weeks of the pregnancy.1
In the UK 140,000 women exhibit signs and symptoms of preterm labour per year but less than 5% go on to deliver within 14 days.3
Preterm labour usually starts by itself. The reasons why labour starts early are often unknown, although there is a greater chance of this happening for women who have had a preterm baby or a late miscarriage before.4 Around 25% of preterm births are planned because of maternal factors such as pre‑eclampsia, or fetal factors such as extreme growth restriction. But most preterm births occur because labour starts early naturally.5
The signs of premature labour can be similar to the signs of labour that starts at full term, and may include:6
If you are experiencing symptoms of preterm labour, your doctor or midwife can determine if your risk of preterm birth is real or perhaps quite low. Sometimes the symptoms are real but the risk isn’t – many women present with signs and symptoms of preterm labour but do not go on to deliver preterm. Fetal fibronectin (fFN) testing can precisely measure your true risk of preterm labour.
Even if you don't have any known risks, you should contact your doctor or midwife if you have any of the warning signs of preterm labour.
Being aware of your risk for preterm labour can help you take a more active role in your pregnancy and your baby’s health, and you may want to ask for a fetal fibronectin test based on your risk factors. Together, you and your doctor or midwife can use this knowledge to work out a plan.
The causes of preterm births are not fully understood, although there are some related risk factors.
Traditional risk factors include:5
If you have any of these risk factors, it’s especially important for you to know the symptoms of preterm labour and what to do if they occur.
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