Signs of premature labour

The following symptoms before 37 weeks of pregnancy could indicate premature labour.

What are the signs of premature labour?

The following symptoms before 37 weeks of pregnancy could indicate premature labour:

  • either a slow trickle or a gush of clear or pinkish fluid from the vagina or any increase in vaginal discharge
  • backache
  • cramps like strong period pains
  • a frequent need to urinate
  • a feeling of pressure in the pelvis
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea.

If you have any of the following symptoms, phone the hospital or midwife straight away, as you could be in labour:

Don't delay if you have strong pain, a smelly discharge or bleeding from your vagina, or if you are feeling feverish, sick or have a temperature, call immediately as you may need urgent medical attention.

Read more about going into labour prematurely

If you have been told you are at risk of having a premature baby, or if you have already had a premature baby, you are likely to have lots of questions about preterm birth. 

Knowing the stages of growth and development after a preterm baby is born and how to care for your baby is essential to give the best chance of survival. 


  1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Preterm birth and labour, guidance in development final scope, NICE, 2013. Also available at: (accessed 15 April 2014)
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Read more on the causes of premature birth

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    Some women have a congenital uterine abnormality, which is a womb/uterus that formed in an unusual way before birth.

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    Cervical incompetence

    When the cervix shortens and opens in the second trimester (16 to 24 weeks) or early in the third trimester without any other symptoms of labour it may be referred to as cervical incompetence or cervical insufficiency.

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    Waters breaking early (PPROM)

    Preterm prelabour rupture of membranes (PPROM) is when your waters break before 37 weeks of pregnancy. If this happens, you will need to get medical help straight away.

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    Information about placental abruption

    The placenta is your baby’s support system in the womb. If your placenta doesn’t work properly, your baby is at risk of health problems. Placental abruption is when your placenta comes away from the wall of your womb.

Read more about being at risk of premature birth

    Last reviewed on April 1st, 2017. Next review date April 1st, 2020.

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