With pregnancy, sometimes the unexpected can occur. But don’t worry. The expert team at Banner Health is here to help you navigate anything and everything that may arise during your pregnancy—including preterm labor.
Preterm labor, also called premature labor, is when your body goes into labor (your cervix opens) early in your pregnancy. Preterm labor happens after week 20 of your pregnancy but before week 37.
Preterm labor can lead to a premature birth, but doctors can often delay delivery.
There is no clear cause of preterm labor but there are many different things that may increase your risk. These risk factors include:
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, contact your doctor right away:
First, your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and test you for preterm labor. Tests and procedures may include:
If you are diagnosed with premature labor, the focus will be on keeping you and your baby safe with the goal of stopping or delaying the labor. Treatments may include:
If you have a short cervix, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure called a cervical cerclage. In this procedure, your cervix is stitched closed with strong sutures. The sutures will be removed after week 36.
If your labor is not able to be stopped, you will deliver your baby prematurely. Babies born prematurely will usually need to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The length of their stay will be determined by when the baby was delivered and the baby’s health needs. Learn more about the NICU at Banner Health.
While some risk factors may be out of your control, there are some things you can do to lower your risk for preterm labor:
If you have questions or concerns about preterm labor or want to learn more about how to reduce your risk, talk to your doctor.