Doctors use weeks instead of months to determine a baby’s due date. A baby’s due date is 40 weeks after the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period (about 280 days). Because of this, full-term pregnancies are actually longer than "9 months".
Unless there are medical reasons to deliver earlier, the best time for a baby to be born is 40 weeks. If a woman goes into labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is called preterm labor. Babies born too early may have more health problems or need to stay in the hospital longer.
Signs of Preterm Labor:
- Contractions that make your belly tighten up like a fist every 10 minutes or more often
- Change in the color of your vaginal discharge, or bleeding from your vagina
- The feeling that your baby is pushing down (pelvic pressure)
- Low, dull backache
- Cramps that feel like your period
- Belly cramps with or without diarrhea.
Call your health care provider even if you have only one sign of preterm labor. Your provider may tell you to:
- Come into the office or go to the hospital
- Stop what you’re doing
- Rest on your left side for 1 hour
- Drink two to three glasses of water or juice. Do not drink coffee or soda.
If the signs get worse or don’t go away, call your provider again or go to the hospital. If the signs do go away, take it easy for the rest of the day.
By knowing the signs of preterm labor, you will be helping your baby.