Symptoms of Preterm Labor and Delivery

Symptoms of preterm labor can happen any time before the 37th week of pregnancy. It can be hard to tell preterm contractions from normal labor, pregnancy, aches, or baby movements.

Problems may be:

  • Contractions that do not stop
  • Watery discharge from the vagina
  • Spotting or bleeding
  • Pressure on the pelvis that feels as if the baby is pushing down
  • A low, dull backache
  • Cramps that come and go and may happen with diarrhea


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Practice Bulletins—Obstetrics. Practice Bulletin No. 171: Management of Preterm Labor. Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Oct;128(4):e155-64, reaffirmed 2018.
Preterm labor and birth: overview. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at: Accessed July 30, 2020.
Preterm labor and birth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: Accessed July 30, 2020.
Preterm labor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated Accessed July 30, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 2/26/2021

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