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Preterm Labor - Exams and Tests

If you have symptoms of preterm labor, both you and your baby will be examined and monitored.

Information from these exams and tests can help you and your doctor or nurse-midwife decide whether to treat early labor and delay the birth or let it continue.

For the mother

You will be examined for tenderness in your uterus. Your temperature, pulse, and rate of breathing will be checked. Depending on your symptoms, you may have one or more exams or tests, including:

  • Vaginal smearVaginal smear. This test looks for:
    • Infection. Having an infection in the vagina can cause infection in your uterus. And that can trigger preterm labor as well as serious infection in the newborn.
    • Amniotic fluid. Finding this fluid in the vagina means that your water has broken.
    • Fetal fibronectin. When the test is negative, it is unlikely that you are having preterm labor. This test isn't used in all labor and delivery units.
  • Vaginal examVaginal exam. You'll be checked to see if the contractions have begun to open (dilate) or thin (efface) your cervix.
  • Ultrasound to check the length of your cervix.
  • Other tests for infection, such as a blood test, urine test, and urine culture.

For the baby

Tests include:

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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