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Preterm labor is usually defined as labor that begins before the 37th week of pregnancy. (Read about "Healthy Pregnancy" "Due Date") The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports one of every 10 babies born in the U.S. is premature. Prematurity is dangerous. Even with intensive care, a premature baby may die or develop chronic lung disease (Read about "Respiratory System") or other serious problems. In fact, ACOG says that premature birth is responsible for most newborn deaths.
Some women are more likely to go into preterm labor. They include women who have had previous preterm deliveries, are carrying multiple babies (Read about "Multiple Birth Pregnancies") and have some cervical or uterine conditions. (Read about "Cervical Insufficiency / Incompetent Cervix")
If the situation is caught early enough, labor may be prevented or postponed, giving the baby more time to develop. The March of Dimes (MOD) recommends calling a healthcare provider or going to a hospital right away if you go into preterm labor. Symptoms include:
Preterm labor seldom has a clear cause. However, ACOG says there are ways to minimize the risks:
MOD says preterm labor can sometimes be controlled with bed rest or medicine.
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