When labour starts before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is termed as premature labour.
History of premature baby, high temperature, multiple pregnancy - all contribute to a premature labour.
The signs of a premature labour are more or less similar to real full term labour. It also depends on the prematurity of the labour. If you are close to 37 weeks, signs will be almost identical to a proper labour whereas if you are many weeks behind, you may experience just a low back pain with or without contractions. See also signs for real labour
If the baby is born before 24 weeks, it has only a tiny little hope of survival. However, if born between 24 and 30 weeks, your baby will be very immature but will be able to survive in baby special care unit. If your baby is born anytime after 34 weeks, he may be able to survive even without special care.
A premature baby's lungs are very immature and cause major problem as the lungs don't know how to breathe and are not fully developed. Steroids may be given to you which reach across to the baby through the placenta and help the baby's lungs to develop rapidly.
* Your hospital may refer you to a specialist unit for premature babies as all hospitals don't have this facility.
* Attempts may be made to stop the contractions temporarily - either through the use of drugs for 48 hours or giving antibiotics if you have infection with high temperature.
* You may be given an injection to calm you down (like pethidine).
* If you are dehydrated, a drip may be given to replenish your fluids.
* You will be advised to take steroids to speed up the development of your baby's lungs - this takes 24 hours to take effect.
* A premature labour is much quicker than a full term labour, mainly because the babies are smaller.