Premature labor occurs when the body begins to expel the baby out before 37weeks of pregnancy. The cervix begins to open up in readiness to give birth. It is important to be aware of the symptoms as it can help in fighting for the lives of both the mother and the baby.

When I went into preterm labor I thought it was a miscarriage. I had heard about it but I never gave much thought to it until I had my second baby at 27weeks. I was living in oblivion even though I had had my first born at around 36weeks some days. I mean, he had stayed in NHDU for two weeks after birth. There were extremely preterms there. I saw and interacted with their moms but it never occurred to me to dig deeper into the condition.

As far as I was concerned, my first baby was born a bit early because the membranes had ruptured. That’s what my gynaecologist told me. While growing up, miscarriages and stillbirths were the common terms I heard concerning pregnancy complications.

Looking back, I think I had the symptoms earlier before I rushed to the hospital.  My ignorance! Perhaps my pregnancy would have been sustained for longer. Even a day, I later learnt makes a huge difference to an unborn or a premature baby. There is a quote that goes, ‘to realize the value of one month, ask a preemie mom.’


Just to go back, during my first three months of pregnancy, I had slight spotting. I was put on hormonal therapy-progesterone. This helped and the bleeding stopped. I was given a clean bill of health by two senior gynecologists.

At 5 Months of gestation,  I had flu and a persistent cough that lasted for a whole month. I saw three doctors at different times. They all prescribed different antibiotics each time. After the third visit, I approached a pharmacist who prescribed an anti-allergy drug. Within 3 days, the flu and the cough disappeared. I am stating this because I came across an article that says that symptoms like flu can also aggravate and lead to preterm birth. Be careful when taking medications as well.

The major symptom I had was lower backache.  This did not alarm me as I had always suffered from it since I had my first son. Before I would take painkillers to alleviate the back pain. I later learnt some exercises on YouTube that would help relieve them. Thus when I continued having them into pregnancy, I never related them to be a concern for preterm labor.

Later on, I started on and off cramping. They were slight and dull at first too. I guess taking painkillers to numb the backache eased them out too. The cramping  and backache later became too much but thankfully I was in the hospital by then.

My tummy was huge, at six months I looked like I was almost eight months. So this justified the pelvic pressure I felt.   My tummy felt heavy, this made me wonder how I would be able to carry my pregnancy to nine months. I wanted to lie down throughout. This is not normal!

I thought of buying pregnancy tummy support belt. However I discussed it with the gynaecologist. He advised me to have a bedrest at home.

I was not alarmed again as I had always done scans in all my prenatal visits, nothing of concern was noted. However, later when I was rushed to the hospital while bleeding heavily, the prognosis was placenta previa, but was later to be confirmed to be a placental abruption after delivery. All these symptoms were pointing me towards preterm labor!

In a nutshell, the symptoms of preterm labour are;

  • Persistent backache mostly lower backache
  • Menstrual like cramps in the lower abdomen, can be on and of or be persistent
  • 5 or more uterine contractions within an hour
  • Watery fluid leaking from vagina; water is broken
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding; trickles or gushes from the vagina.
  • Flu like symptoms-nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Pelvic pressure – occurs when the baby is pushing low

Going into preterm labor does not necessarily mean that you will have a premature baby. Sometimes the birth can be delayed/postponed.  Find out if you are at risk of preterm labour and ways to prevent it from your Doctor.

About Brenda S. Anyumba

Brenda is passionate about raising premature babies and finding solutions to save the increasing numbers of premature babies dying daily in Africa. She had a late preterm baby and an extremely preterm baby. Brenda is also keen on the training of children according to God's will. She reads on 'Kingdom Parenting' and practises the knowledge she learns on her boys and is blessed to share them with you too.