Preterm Labor - When To Call a Doctor
can be hard to recognize. Get the earliest possible medical care for
preterm labor by calling your doctor or your nurse-midwife about signs of
possible preterm labor.
Any time during your pregnancy
Call your doctor or
your nurse-midwife if you have:
- An increase or gush of fluid from your vagina. It is possible
to mistake a leak of
amniotic fluid for a problem with bladder control or
excess cervical mucus.
- Bleeding or spotting from your vagina.
- Painful or frequent urination or urine that is cloudy,
foul-smelling, or bloody.
Between 20 and 37 weeks of your pregnancy
your doctor, your nurse-midwife, or the labor and delivery unit of your local
- You have had regular contractions for an hour. This means about
4 or more in 20 minutes, or about 8 or more within 1 hour, even after you have
had a glass of water and are resting.
- You have unexplained low back pain or pelvic pressure.
- You have uterine tenderness, unexplained fever, or weakness
(possible symptoms of infection).
- You have intestinal cramping with or without diarrhea.
- The baby has stopped moving or is moving much less than normal.
See fetal movement counting for information on how to
check your baby's activity.
If you are having painless or mild contractions
that are irregular or more than 15 minutes apart:
- Stop what you are doing.
- Empty your bladder.
- Drink 2 to 3 glasses of water or juice (too little body fluid
can cause contractions).
- Lie down on your left side for at least an hour, and keep track
of how often you have contractions.
Call your doctor or nurse-midwife if you have had regular contractions for
an hour. This means about 4 or more in 20 minutes, or about 8 or more within 1
hour, even after you have had a glass of water and are resting.
If your contractions stop, they were probably
Braxton Hicks contractions, which are harmless and
normal. Braxton Hicks contractions are often irregularly timed and
uncomfortable rather than painful.
Who To See
If you are in premature labor, you may be seen
continue to see your
certified nurse-midwife or
certified professional midwife, who will consult with
one of the doctors listed above.
If it appears that your labor
cannot be stopped, you may also see a neonatologist, a doctor who specializes
in the intensive care of infants.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.