Typical pregnancies last around 40 weeks and babies born between 37 and 42 are considered full term. Those that come before 37 weeks are dangerously early and considered premature. Even though less than 10% of all births are premature, it is still important to know the signs as there are ways we can stop premature labor. Below I've listed common signs of labor you should know.
Leaking fluid: This is often caused by uterine cramps that rupture the bag of waters causing fluid to leak, sometimes with a gush.
Cramps: Light cramping similar to menstrual cramps.
Nausea/Vomiting: Many women experience these symptoms at some point during labor. If you cannot keep fluids down for 6-8 hours contact your doctor immediately.
Contractions: Of course, contractions are a major sign of labor. As labor progresses contractions will become stronger, closer together and longer. These are more tense and should not be mistaken as Braxton-Hicks. To know if these are actual contractions, feel your abdomen. If they are real, you will feel your belly harden as it contracts and soften as it subsides.
Pressure: This is a big indicator that the baby is descending and pushing down. This feeling can also be related to the urge of a bowel movement.
Vaginal Discharge: You may see a colored tent that is odorless or possibly foul smelling. A change in your vaginal discharge can be a sign of early labor and the details are important when notifying your caregiver.
Back pain: Many women experience pain in their back during labor, sometimes called back labor.
If you have any of these signs before 37 weeks gestation, seek medical attention immediately as they may be signs of premature labor. Knowing these signs and acting quickly can help stop dangerously early births. By taking care of yourself, eating healthy, taking the appropriate vitamins, getting the medical care needed during pregnancy, and staying hydrated you can help prevent preterm labor.