A silhouette of a very pregnant young woman looking out the window thinking about the causes of early labor.

7 Common Causes of Early Labor

Soon after women find out they are pregnant, they begin to think about the birth of the little one growing inside of them. Pregnancy lasts about forty weeks, so a baby born before thirty-seven weeks is considered premature. There are many instances in which women go into labor early. In some cases, doctors can stop contractions and prevent an early birth. Other times, early labor can lead to a preterm birth, causing the baby to be born with health issues. They may have to stay in the NICU for some time so they can work through possible complications, such as underdeveloped lungs. Unfortunately, doctors don’t know why a woman goes into labor earlier than she should. However, research has shown that there are some specific instances that are common causes of early labor.

Carrying multiples

It’s typical for mothers carrying more than one baby to deliver early because they are more likely to develop complications. When carrying more than one baby, a mother’s uterus can stretch too far too fast, causing over distention. These mothers can also have too much amniotic fluid, which is another one of the common causes of early labor.

Water breaking early or cervical insufficiency

Sometimes, for reasons unknown, a mother’s water breaks early. In this case, contractions begin soon after. Even if they don’t, labor will be induced to avoid infection. Cervical insufficiency is a similar cause where a mother’s cervix opens without contractions before thirty-seven weeks. Unfortunately, these common causes of early labor do not have a specific trigger that moms can avoid. On the bright side, the more you know about the symptoms of each cause, the better prepared you feel if they happen to you.


Insufficient intake of water and other liquids can cause a mother to become dehydrated, which can lead to contractions. It’s very important for pregnant women to be mindful of keeping hydrated to prevent the uterus from contracting. When I was pregnant, I kept an oversized water bottle on the kitchen counter. I would suggest buying a gallon jug at the store and making it a goal to drink about a gallon per day.

High blood pressure/preeclampsia

Women who experience high blood pressure during pregnancy are at risk for a serious condition called preeclampsia. It is a condition that can happen after a mother’s 20th week of pregnancy. High blood pressure can be an indication that certain organs aren’t working properly. If this condition goes untreated it can cause serious health issues for both the mother and the baby. This kind of stress on the body can lead to preterm labor, so I suggest you find ways to ensure your blood pressure remains in a low, healthy state.

Irritable Uterus

In some cases, the uterus begins to contract early without explanation. This type of preterm labor can begin very early in pregnancy with contractions persisting for weeks at a time without causing any significant change to the cervix. Again, we are not sure what causes an irritable uterus, but the more you know…


Certain infections such as sexually transmitted diseases, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary tract infections can irritate the uterus and/or cause the membranes around the amniotic sac to weaken and possibly rupture water early. Some research claims that infections that are treated, especially in the second and third trimester, can help prevent premature birth. If you have any symptoms of these types of infections, see your doctor immediately.

History of preterm labor

It’s important to note that if a mother has experienced preterm labor or birth in a previous pregnancy, she is more likely to experience it again.

Spontaneous preterm labor is a bit of an unsolved mystery, but doctors have found ways to help stop contractions with methods such as medication and bed rest. Sometimes, if labor can’t be stopped completely, it can be delayed long enough to administer a steroid shot to help the baby’s lungs to develop quickly so that they are mature when the baby is born. Although doctors are still unsure why a woman’s body goes into labor before a baby reaches full term, these common causes of early labor give mothers an idea of specific situations in which preterm labor and birth can occur and keeps them prepared.


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My non stress test turned into early labor

I’m 37 weeks and I went into early labor 2 weeks ago. They stopped it in the hospital but now I’m scared and nervous

I have had extremely painful contractions this morning but then they stopped. I’m 39 weeks, could this be early labor?

I think I’m having early labor – I am losing my mucus plug and having slight pain in the bottom of my belly

If I have a trigger of wetness in my shorts would that be considered early labor? I’m 39 and 1/2 weeks

After 2 days of early labor we finally had the baby!

I’m 39 weeks with my first baby and have been experiencing cramping unlike braxton hicks. Could this be early labor?

I am 40 weeks tomorrow and am in early labor. My body is contracting and not dilating and it is painful!

I’m pretty sure I’m in early labor – been having contractions for three hours. What are suggestions for dealing with the pain?

Moms of preemies as your first child, did you have a preemie the second time around also?

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