Things You Can Do at Home

If you are having signs of preterm labor, drink 2 to 3 glasses of water or juice (be sure it doesn't have caffeine), rest on your left side for an hour, and record the contractions you feel. If the warning signs continue for more than an hour, call your doctor. If they subside, try to relax for the rest of the day and avoid anything that makes the signs recur.

There is a great deal of overlap between the symptoms of preterm labor and the symptoms of normal pregnancy. This makes it easy for a woman to dismiss symptoms of preterm labor-or to worry that every symptom indicates something is terribly wrong.

Women experience contractions throughout pregnancy, and the frequency of contractions increases as the pregnancy progresses. This can make preterm labor particularly difficult to assess. In fact, 13% of women with preterm labor have minimal symptoms and 10% of women with normal pregnancies have painful contractions. Further, women may misinterpret the signs of pelvic pressure or abdominal cramps as gas pains, intestinal cramps, or constipation.

When in doubt, call your care provider's office. Often, an experienced nurse or doctor can help you sort out normal pregnancy symptoms from preterm labor.

Warning Signs

Some of the warning signs of preterm labor are:

  • mild abdominal cramps (like a menstrual period), with or without diarrhea;
  • frequent, regular contractions (every 10 minutes or more);
  • vaginal bleeding or a change in the type or amount of vaginal discharge (these signs may indicate changes in your cervix);
  • dull ache in your lower back; and
  • pelvic pressure (as if your baby is pushing down hard).