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About half of the women who have premature babies have no known risk factors,
so everyone needs to be aware of the signs and symptoms.


Premature labour may sometimes be stopped with a combination of rest and medication. Otherwise, staff will try to delay the labour long enough for the mother to be transferred to a hospital with a Level III Nursery and given medication to help speed up the baby’s lung development.

Will my baby be BORN EARLY?

Around 8% of babies in Australia each year are BORN EARLY. Babies born prematurely may need help to breathe and are at much higher risk of long-term health problems than babies born on time.

Premature labour occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy and occurs in 5%-10% of all pregnancies. A pregnancy generally lasts between 38 and 42 weeks.

Those women at highest risk of having a premature baby are those who have:

  • previously had a premature birth
  • a multiple pregnancy
  • certain uterine or cervical abnormalities

What should I do?

Call your health care provider or go to the hospital right away
if you are experiencing ANY of the signs or symptoms of premature labour.

The signs of premature labour may include:

  • Low, dull backache
  • Pelvic pressure - the feeling that your baby is pushing down
  • Puffiness or swelling of your hands, face and feet (some swelling of the feet is normal, but usually reduces overnight)
  • Contractions (your abdomen tightens like a fist) more than four times in an hour
  • Flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Eye or vision disturbances, such as blurriness or double vision
  • Abdominal pain or cramps that feel like your  period, with or without diarrhea
  • Decreased fetal movements (the baby does not kick as often as it usually does)
  • Change in vaginal discharge (leaking fluid or bleeding from your vagina)
  • You are worried, concerned or just don’t ‘feel right’

What if I'm not sure?

Most babies born before 32 weeks gestation will need
to be cared for at a Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery. 

It is important for all pregnant women to be aware of the signs and symptoms of possible pregnancy  complications or premature labour. This doesn’t mean that you need to panic, not every twinge means that something is wrong. But you should know what isn’t ‘normal’ and what to do if you are worried.

You don’t need to have all these signs or symptoms to ring your Health Care Provider.
Take action even if you have only one.

If you are in premature labour, the sooner you see someone the better. If you feel you may have some of the signs and symptoms, but don’t think you are in premature labour, call anyway. The doctor or  hospital won’t think you are ‘silly’.

Remember, it’s probably nothing,
but it might be something.

Causes of premature birth

Whilst many premature births occur quickly, for some there is a bit of time to get used to the idea. Multiple pregnancies and assisted fertility pregnancies have a higher risk of preterm birth, and some conditions that occur during a pregnancy may also lead a doctor to warn of a possible premature birth, giving you a little time to find out some information about what may happen to you and your baby.

Some of the more common causes of premature birth are:

Just click on any of the links for further information on these topics - including general information, links to websites and personal stories.




This information is intended as general background information only. Please check with your doctor or other health care provider for further and more specific information on how any condition affects you and/or your baby's health and before acting on any information presented here.

Please also read our disclaimer.


born early
increase awareness about premature birth and its consequences,
fund research into the causes and prevention of premature birth and
provide support to those who experience premature birth

Solving the puzzle of premature birth

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