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Going into labor too early is a common concern among pregnant mothers, and that is not without reason. The earlier you seek treatment for pre-term labor, the better the odds that doctors will be able to stop it with medication and delay your delivery date. Women who are pregnant for the first time are especially worried that they will not be able to recognize pre-term labor if it happens to them. This checklist discusses the symptoms of pre-term labor, and we will also describe symptoms that are completely normal and do not point to labor.

However, if you are pregnant and at all concerned that you could be in labor, it is important to contact your healthcare provider immediately. What are the signs of pre-term labor?

  • Regular contractions that get closer together and do not subside when you change positions. See our article on what contractions feel like for more information. Braxton Hicks contractions are patternless contractions that are painless, and go away when you move around. They are normal, and not a sign of pre-term labor.
  • When your bag of water breaks, it is one of the most obvious signs that you are going into labor. Amniotic fluid can stream out in one rush, or it can come out in small gushes. It is a clear and odorless fluid. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for pregnant women to pee themselves sometimes. If the fluid you are leaking smells like urine, it probably is.
  • Losing your mucus plug. The mucus plug protects the cervix and keeps it closed during pregnancy. It looks like a slimy substance mixed with blood.
  • Vaginal bleeding should always prompt you to see your doctor. It can be a sign of preterm labor or a host of other complications that always require attention.
  • Abdominal pain and cramping. These can be contractions.

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