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Preterm Labour


Labour that begins prior to 37 weeks. There must be both painful and regular contractions, and a change in the cervix. Contractions that do not change the cervix are called preterm contractions. Preterm contractions do not usually need to be treated unless the woman is very preterm and the contractions are very frequent and strong.

Signs of preterm labour include:

  • Regular cramping-like menses or intermittent back aches.
  • Increase in discharge
  • Blood discharge
  • Increased pelvic pressure
Risks for preterm labour include:

Preterm labour may result in preterm delivery or premature rupture of the membranes . Babies born after 32 weeks do very well in the nursery. They have very high survival, and usually donít have long term complications. At 24 weeks, about 50% will survive. 50% will have permanent problems due to being born preterm. As pregnancy progresses, the survival rate increases and the chance of permanent problems decreases.

Medications are often used to stop labour, for example magnesium sulfate given intravenously, which stops labour in up to 80% of women (but with possible side effects such as rapid heartbeat in the woman and/or baby). Terbutaline is another drug used to stop labour. The woman may also be given a corticosteroid to help open the baby's lungs and reduce the risk of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome .

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine & Prenatal Diagnosis:

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Contact Last modified: Oct 21 2004