Signs & Symptoms of Preterm Labour

The signs of premature labour can be similar to the signs of labour that starts at full term, and may include¹:

  • Contractions
  • Period-type pains
  • A ‘show’ (when the plug of mucus that has sealed the cervix during pregnancy comes away and out of the vagina)
  • Breaking of the waters (rupture of membranes) – this can be a gush or trickle
  • Backache

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.


  1. National Health Service (NHS). Premature labour and birth. November 2017. Available at:

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