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1 What Is Premature Labor ? on Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:12 am

What Is Premature Labor ?

If labor occurs before a pregnancy reaches its 37th completed week (full term is normally 40 weeks), it's called premature labor, or preterm labor.

The World Health Organization defines preterm labor as the onset of contractions of the uterus before the 37th completed week of pregnancy that are:




•Palpable (that can be felt by a health professional)

If there is also progressive effacement (shortening) and dilation (opening) of the cervix (the neck of the uterus), preterm labor has begun.

Just as normal labor differs in intensity from one woman to another, so do the contractions of premature labor. Some women do not have painful contractions, but describe being "uncomfortable" or merely feeling "as if something isn't right." If you think you might be in preterm labor, trust your instincts and contact your health care provider for a complete exam.

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