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Labour Pains Before 37 Weeks: What Should I Do?

Preterm birth is more common than you thought: One in 10 babies are born preterm — defined as before 37 weeks. Premature babies may suffer risk of infection, respiratory and gut complications, and require close monitoring in intensive care.

If you notice these symptoms before 37 weeks, it’s best to seek medical attention right away:

Moderate pain similar to period cramps
Straw-coloured leak from vagina
Mucus plug leak from vagina (called “show”)
Low, dull backache below waistline
Pelvic pressure (like the baby is pushing down)

Contractions without Breaking Water

The first thing your doctor will do is to determine if you’re in labour. In addition to monitoring your contractions and your baby’s heartbeat, your doctor may also:

  • Perform an ultrasound scan to check the amniotic fluid level and the baby's estimated weight and position

  • Perform an internal check of cervical opening

  • Do vaginal swab test for infection

  • Test for cervical fibronectin — negative result means you won’t deliver soon


Contractions that aren’t accompanied by pain are Braxton Hicks and will not induce labour. If your doctor concludes that you’re not actually in labour and mother and child appear healthy, you probably had a false alarm.


Ruptured Membrane without Contractions

Premature rupture of the membranes (PROM) carries an increased risk of infection. The course of action — whether to induce, delay or wait for the onset of labour. Your doctor will weigh the risks and advise you accordingly.


Week 34–37: Late-preterm Labour

If you go into preterm labour between week 34 and 37 and there are no other complications in your pregnancy, the prognosis for your baby is good. Except for a longer stay in the neonatal unit, your baby will grow up just as healthy as any full-term babies.



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