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Health During Pregnancy

Important signs to watch for if you are pregnant [hide]
  • Bad cramps or stomach pains that don't go away
  • Bleeding or a trickle or gush of fluid from your vagina
  • Lower back pain/pressure or change in lower back pain
  • A feeling that the baby is pushing down
  • Contractions or change in the strength or number of them
  • An increase in the amount of vaginal discharge
  • Fever, chills, dizziness, vomiting or a bad headache
  • Blurry vision or spots before your eyes
  • Sudden or severe swelling of your feet, hand or face
  • A significant change in your baby's movements

Go to a hospital right away and contact your doctor/midwife if you have any of these symptoms!

Adapted with permission from:
Best Start: Ontario's Maternal Newborn and Early Child Development Resource Centre

Revised:Thursday October 09 2014

Medical Concerns

Pre-term labour

Pregnant asian lady

What is pre-term labour?

A normal or term pregnancy lasts 37 to 42 weeks. Labour is a process which happens at the end of the pregnancy. In labour, there are contractions (tightenings) of the uterus (womb) that cause the cervix (opening to the womb) to open. Pre-term (premature) labour is labour that starts before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

What does this mean for my baby?

Pre-term labour may lead to a pre-term birth, which means your baby is born too soon.

In the short term, pre-term babies:

  • may have trouble breathing, feeding, and keeping warm
  • may be more likely to get infections
  • may need special care in the hospital
  • may have to stay in the hospital after their mother goes home
  • are at a higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

In the long term, pre-term babies are at risk for:

  • blindness
  • difficulty walking
  • problems learning

Some pre-term babies are born very early and may not be strong enough to live.

Share this information with your partner and family.


Could this happen to me?

Yes, pre-term labour can happen to anyone.

Even if you are healthy and do "all the right things", there is still a chance that pre-term labour can happen to you. Medical experts do not know all the reasons why labour starts too early.

Some women may be more likely than others to have a pre-term birth.

For example, these may be women who:

  • have had a pre-term baby before
  • have had no prenatal care
  • are carrying more than one baby, for example twins
  • are smokers
  • are underweight
  • are not getting enough healthy food
  • have a lot of stress in their life
  • have a vaginal or bladder infection
  • have had several miscarriages
  • do strenuous work

One in every 14 babies in Canada is born too soon.

What can I do to reduce the chances of pre-term labour?

Although it is not possible to prevent all pre-term labours from happening, there is still much you can do to help your baby to be born at the right time:

  • seek prenatal care with your health care provider as early as possible (before 12 weeks) in the pregnancy and go to every appointment
  • go to Prenatal Classes early in your pregnancy
  • if you smoke, try to quit or at least cut down
  • take time to lie down or put your feet up during the day
  • follow Canada's Food Guide
  • listen to your body - notice when things feel "different" and talk to your doctor/midwife about it
  • talk to your doctor/midwife about how to deal with the stress in your life
  • learn everything you can about pre-term labour
  • go to the hospital if you have signs and symptoms related to pre-term labour

A message for partners: You can help by knowing the signs of pre-term labour and what to do if it happens.


How do I know if I am having pre-term labour?

It is not always easy for a woman to tell if she is having pre-term labour. Many of the signs of pre-term labour can feel the same as some of the normal things that happen in the second half of pregnancy. There are important signs to watch for, especially if they are new or different from before.

Signs & symptoms of pre-term labour:

  • bad cramps or stomach pains that don't go away
  • bleeding, trickle or gush of fluid from your vagina
  • lower back pain/pressure, or a change in lower backache
  • a feeling that the baby is pushing down
  • contractions, or change is the strength or number of them
  • an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge

Some women may just feel that "something is not right".

You also need medical care if you have:

  • fever, chills, dizziness, vomiting or a bad headache
  • blurry vision or spots before your eyes
  • sudden or severe swelling of your feet, hands or face
  • a significant change in your baby's movement

A word about contractions

Pre-term labour contractions feel different from the normal tightenings that many women feel in the second half of pregnancy:

  • they may feel more regular,
  • they do not go away if you move around or lie down
  • there may be other signs that happen with the contractions, such as fluid leaking from the vagina or pelvic pressure


What should I do if I think I am in pre-term labour?

If you have any of the signs of preterm labour, GO TO THE HOSPITAL RIGHT AWAY.

You need to be assessed by a doctor/midwife to confirm if you are in pre-term labour.

You can call your own doctor or midwife once you get to the hospital. If you cannot drive yourself, ask a neighbour or friend to help. If you cannot get to the hospital right away, call the birthing unit at your hospital for advice.

It's important to get to the hospital early if you're in pre-term labour - it can make a big difference to your baby's health.

Adapted with permission from:
Best Start: Ontario's Maternal Newborn and Early Child Development Resource Centre

For more information about pre-term labour, talk to your doctor, midwife or contact:

Region of Peel-Public Health
905-799-7700
Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Caledon residents call free of charge at 905-584-2216
To speak to a Public Health Nurse

Preterm Labour
Women's Health Information
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada



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Revised: Thursday October 09 2014

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