How is preterm birth defined? What are the causes & symptoms?

Preterm birth occurs in 10 – 15% of all pregnancies. Its causes are not known, but there are factors associated with the phenomenon, such as medical history of miscarriages and preterm births, smoking, below 20 years of age, malnutrition, uterine abnormalities, and more.

Symptoms of preterm labor are manifested between the 20th and the 37th week of pregnancy, accompanied by painful or not, repeated uterine contractions, lasting at least 30-40 seconds each, for at least 1 hour, as well as cervical dilatation. In addition, the pregnant woman may feel pressure on the pelvis or spine or vaginal bleeding. In any case, the accurate diagnosis of preterm birth is made by getting a detailed medical history, cardiotocography and clinical examination.


Preterm birth risks

  • Neonatal mortality and neonatal death, mainly in infants below 28 weeks of age
  • Intraabdominal bleeding, which may cause permanent neurological damage
  • Risk of sepsis
  • Necrotic enterocolitis
  • Apnea
  • Bradycardia

However, babies born prematurely have a 90% chance of living if they weigh between 1000 and 1500 grams, while when weighing less than 1000 grams the odds are reduced by 10-15% per 100 grams less. Neonates less than 500g usually don’t survive.



The pregnant woman should take care of herself throughout the pregnancy by eating and resting properly and not missing out on regular visits to the gynecologist. Still, it is important to stay away from habits that are harmful to her life, to avoid stressful situations and stress, and to definitely avoid smoking and drinking.


In addition, there are some special tests for women who have symptoms of preterm birth or if they are considered in high-risk pregnancy, but it is important to refer them to a doctor.