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Symptoms of Preterm Labor and Delivery

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

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, and 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.
  • How do health care providers diagnose preterm labor? National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/preterm/conditioninfo/diagnosed.
  • Premature labor. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/labor-and-birth/premature-labor.
  • Preterm labor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/preterm-labor.
  • Preterm labor and birth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/labor-delivery-and-postpartum-care/preterm-labor-and-birth.
  • Preterm labor and birth. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/preterm.


  • Elizabeth Margaret Prusak, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.