Premature Birth: 11 Signs and Causes


Premature birth refers to giving birth to a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy. There are various causes of premature birth. It can happen because the cervix opens before time, hormonal changes and dislocation of the placenta. Often premature birth is planned to save the life of the baby in case of severe medical complications like preeclampsia.

When a pregnant woman goes into preterm labor it is usually followed by premature birth. There are many signs of premature labor. Regular contractions, water breaking, increase in vaginal discharge and pressure in the abdomen are few symptoms. Also rhythmic dull back pain and abdominal cramps can be signs.

The causes of premature birth are given below:

Causes of Premature Birth

Placental abruption

The placenta is the life support of the baby. If the placenta separates from the uterine lining before 37 weeks it can lead to premature birth. This is a serious condition and can put the baby’s life at risk. The separation of the placenta can interrupt the transfer of necessary nourishment and oxygen to the fetus. In such a case you might experience premature labor contractions. The doctor might also suggest premature delivery of the baby to save its life.

History of premature birth

If you have had a previous experience of premature delivery, it can trigger another one. Though not certain, history of early delivery can cause another premature delivery in the next pregnancy. It is better to consult a doctor and ascertain the risks of preterm delivery if you have gone through a similar experience before.

Premature birth



Being pregnant with twins

Multiple pregnancies can lead to premature birth in most cases. If you are pregnant with twins or triplets, it can be a cause of premature birth. Pregnant women with twins or triplets mostly give birth prematurely.  Check with your doctor to be sure of the risks involved. Notify your doctor immediately if you experience any problem during pregnancy.

Problem with the cervix

Sometimes your cervix can open up without any symptom before the due date. This can lead to premature birth. It is one of the causes behind pregnant women giving birth to their babies prematurely.  It is still not clear why some women have this problem with their cervix. Sometimes the cervix may be weak and cannot hold up till delivery date. But the loosening of the cervix makes way for an early delivery of the baby.



Infections during pregnancy, especially urinary tract infections can be dangerous. This is one of the major causes of premature birth in pregnant women. Infections of the amniotic fluid and vagina can also cause premature birth. Even sexually transmitted infections can cause early birth in many women.

High blood pressure

Having a high blood pressure can induce preterm birth. The chances of preeclampsia increase with high blood pressure in pregnant women. This condition is life threatening for the baby. If you have preeclampsia, your doctor may decide to deliver the baby prematurely to save both of your life. High blood pressure is therefore one of the vital causes of premature birth.

Signs of Premature Birth

The signs of premature birth are as follows:

Regular contractions

If you experience regular contraction at a certain time gap before 37 weeks, it is a sign of preterm labor.  Regular frequent contractions are not usual before the 37th week of pregnancy. Preterm labor can induce premature birth. These contractions can be painful but sometimes even painless.


Change in vaginal discharge

One of the signs of premature birth is increase in vaginal discharge before the expected time. There can be change in the type of vaginal discharge as well. You may notice watery mucus discharge all of a sudden. Sometimes it can be bloody also. This is a significant symptom of preterm labor.  Immediately notify your doctor if this happens.

Water breaking

If your water breaks and you see excess fluid discharge, it is a sign that you are going to have a premature birth.  The water should break not before 37 weeks of pregnancy in normal situation. But if your water breaks before that, it means you are going to have premature birth. In that case, it is crucial to get hospitalized as soon as possible.

Dull backache

Back pain is not unusual during pregnancy. But sometimes, this dull pain can also be a sign of premature labor. When the baby pushes its way out of the cervix, it can cause constant lower back pain. It is therefore very important to notify your doctor about this. Especially if you experience rhythmic pain in your third trimester and it cannot be treated by normal methods.

Abdominal cramps

One of the signs of preterm labor is frequent menstrual like cramps in the belly. Abdominal cramps occur when you are likely to have a premature birth. These cramps are potential symptom of premature labor. Abdominal cramps should not be ignored during pregnancy. Especially if it occurs in the advance stage of pregnancy.  Call your doctor to be on the safe side.


Premature birth can happen anytime before the 37th week of pregnancy. There are several stages of preterm birth.  Late preterm, moderate preterm, very preterm and extremely preterm. Most premature births occur in the late preterm stage, between the 24 and 36 weeks. Premature birth can cause health complications in the baby. Especially if the baby is born before 24 weeks of pregnancy. There might be several risks like breathing problem, lack of immunity and even serious problems like cerebral palsy. However, it is not necessary that a premature baby will be deficient.

Premature birth has various signs and symptoms. Excessive vaginal discharge, spotting, back pain and regular contractions are all signs. They are indications that your baby might be on its way too early. Sometimes a few signs can be confusing. Lower back pain or false contractions occur all through pregnancy. Most of the time, these symptoms can be treated with simple remedies.  When these remedies do not work, it can turn out to be serious. Always consult your doctor to be sure.