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  4. Preterm labour
Signs and treatment of pre-term labour

Premature Birth: Signs and treatment of pre-term labour

All women should be aware of the signs of pre-term labour. Even if you are not recognised as having a high risk pregnancy, you are still at risk, as many of the causes of pre-term birth are still unknown. Signs and symptoms of pre-term labour can include, but are not limited to, the following. If you experience any of these symptoms, or feel that something is “not right”, seek medical advice.

Signs and Symptoms


Contractions that are painful or regular may be a sign of pre-term labour.

Ruptured Membranes

This could mean a gush of fluid or may just be a trickle of watery fluid. This could indicate that your water has broken.


Menstrual-like cramps could indicate labour.

Back Pain

Pain in the lower back


A feeling of the baby pushing down, pelvic pressure.

Vaginal Discharge

Leaking fluid, blood or a “show” of mucus from the vagina may indicate pre-term labour.

Treatment of Pre-term labour

If preterm labour is determined, there are a number of treatments that can be used to stop or delay the labour. These include bed rest, hydration and administration of Turbutaline or Magnesium Sulfate.

If it appears that birth is imminent and the baby is between 24 and 34 weeks gestation, a corticosteroid may be given to the mother 24 hours before birth in an attempt to increase the baby’s lung and brain development.

Although bed rest, fluids and labour-inhibiting medications including steroids may be prescribed, these attempts often merely offer a short delay in the delivery to allow physicians to speed the development of the baby’s lungs and, if necessary, transfer the mother to a hospital that is better equipped for premature babies, such as one with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

For more information see Childbirth.


Laws PJ, Grayson N & Sullivan EA 2006. Australia’s mothers and babies 2004. Perinatal statistics series no. 18. AIHW cat. no. PER 34. Sydney: AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit.

Southeast Missouri Hospital. High Risk Pregnancy. Retrieved September 10, 2007, from www.southeastmissourihospital.com/health/PEDS/hrpregnant/sitemap.htm

Tomasulo J.P., & Lubetkin D. (Ed.). Premature Birth. Retrieved September 17, 2007, from http://obgyn.health.ivillage.com/pregnancybasics/prematurebirth2.cfm

All information has been kindly supplied by The National Premmie Foundation. All material here is for informational purposes only and should in no way replace or be used as a substitute for, professional medical advice.

NPF Help and Information Line 1300 PREMBABY 1300 773 622 local call cost AU wide 24 hours