Preterm labor is defined as regular uterine contractions and cervical changes before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Preterm birth is defined as live birth between 20 0/7 weeks and 36 6/7 weeks of gestation. Approximately half of patients who deliver prematurely are diagnosed with preterm labor. Risk factors include a previous preterm birth, a short cervical length during pregnancy, and multiple gestation. Clinical features include early onset of contractions, premature cervical changes, or premature rupture of membranes. The diagnosis is usually clinical and can be supported by a cervical ultrasound and/or fetal fibronectin detection test. Treatment includes tocolysis, antenatal steroids to improve fetal lung maturity, and magnesium sulfate to provide fetal neuroprotection. Tocolytic agents are used to prolong pregnancy to gain time for steroids and magnesium sulfate to take effect. Complications of the preterm infant include intraventricular hemorrhage, neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, and necrotizing enterocolitis. Avoidance of modifiable risk factors, management of cervical insufficiency, and vaginal progesterone supplementation can help prevent preterm labor in certain risk groups.
- Preterm labor: Regular uterine contractions with cervical effacement, dilation, or both before 37 weeks gestation.
- Preterm birth
- Complications of preterm birth are the leading cause of death in children < 5 years of age worldwide. 
- Approximately half of patients who deliver prematurely are diagnosed with preterm labor. 
- Preterm birth rate in the US: approx. 12% of all live births 
Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.
High risk factors
- History of preterm birth
Low risk factors
- Maternal and fetal medical conditions
- Lifestyle and environmental factors
- Substance use (e.g., alcohol or drugs)
- Maternal or fetal stress
- Maternal age (≤ 18 years, > 35 years) 
- Low maternal prepregnancy weight
- African-American race
Induction of fetal lung maturity: single course of antenatal steroids (IM betamethasone or IM dexamethasone ) 
- Indication: 24 0/7 weeks to 33 6/7 weeks gestation with a risk of delivery within the next 7 days
- Improves neonatal survival, fetal lung maturity, and surfactant production
- Repeat the course if the last dose of corticosteroids was > 14 days previously.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a single course of betamethasone for pregnant women between 34 0/7 weeks and 36 6/7 weeks of gestation at risk of delivery within 7 days and who have not received a course of antenatal corticosteroids previously. 
Tocolysis: administration of tocolytics to inhibit uterine contractions and prolong pregnancy 
- Indication: recommended for up to 48 hours to enable administration of antenatal corticosteroids in preterm labor and/or transportation to another medical center
- First-line: NSAIDs (e.g., indomethacin), or calcium channel blockers (e.g., nifedipine)
- Second-line: beta-2 adrenergic agonists (e.g., terbutaline), nifedipine, magnesium sulfate
- Maternal drug contraindications (e.g., myasthenia gravis for magnesium sulfate, aortic insufficiency for calcium channel blockers)
- Nonreassuring fetal cardiotocography
- Intrauterine fetal demise
- Antepartum hemorrhage with hemodynamic instability
- Severe preeclampsia or eclampsia
- Lethal fetal anomaly
- Fetal neuroprotection: administration of magnesium sulfate 
- PDA) (
- ROP) (
- NEC) (
Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL)
- Definition: symmetrical, periventricular injury of cerebral white matter (necrosis and cystic formation) caused by ischemia and/or infection
- Epidemiology: mainly affects premature infants
- Clinical features: features of spastic cerebral palsy, intellectual impairment, and visual disturbances
- Diagnostics: brain imaging using ultrasound, cranial CT, or MRI
- Neurological disorders (e.g., cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, developmental delays, ADHD)
- Problems of homeostasis (e.g., apnea, bradycardia, hypothermia)
- Infection and sepsis (e.g., neonatal sepsis, neonatal pneumonia)
- Anemia of prematurity
Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) 
- Definition: Bleeding into the ventricles from the germinal matrix, a highly vascularized region within the subventricular zone of the brain from which cells migrate out during brain development.
- Risk factors
- Immaturity of the basal lamina and lack of astrocytic glial fibrillary acidic protein within the germinal matrix leads to abnormal cerebral autoregulation.
- Alterations in an infant's blood pressure (e.g., during birth, intubation) → failure of cerebral autoregulation to compensate for the change in blood pressure → rupture of and bleeding from vessels in the germinal matrix → rupture of ependyma → blood flows into the ventricles
- Clinical features
- Usually occurs within the first days of life
- Most infants are asymptomatic, but saltatory (for several days) or, more rarely, catastrophic (over minutes to hours) courses are also possible.
- Lethargy, hypotonia, irregular respirations, seizures, bulging anterior fontanelle
- Cranial nerve abnormalities (e.g., pupils react sluggishly to light) and changes in eye movement (e.g., roving eye movements)
Cranial ultrasound: allows grading of IVH based upon the location and extent to assess severity 
- Grade I: bleeding confined to germinal matrix and ≤ 10% of the ventricular area
- Grade II: 10–50% of the lateral ventricle volume occupied by germinal matrix and IVH
- Grade III: > 50% of the lateral ventricle volume occupied by germinal matrix and IVH, ventricular distortion
- Periventricular hemorrhagic infarction: hemorrhagic infarction in periventricular white matter ipsilateral to IVH
- Since most patients are asymptomatic, screening ultrasounds are routinely performed in infants with a birth weight < 1500 g and delivery before 30 weeks gestation. 
- Cranial ultrasound: allows grading of IVH based upon the location and extent to assess severity 
We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.
- Mothers should avoid modifiable risk factors (see “Etiology” above)
- Manage , if present (see “Complications” in “ ”)
- Vaginal progesterone supplementation