Nursing Diagnosis for Preterm Labor: A Key to Better Care

SimpleNursing Editorial Team Dec 27, 2023
Pretty young woman female nurse attends to a pretty young female preterm pregnant woman

Helping a pregnant client prepare for the birth of their baby is one of the most important and rewarding roles a nurse can take on.

Now, imagine the possibility of that child arriving earlier than the usual 40-week gestation period. The stakes are suddenly higher, the atmosphere more tense, and the role of the nursing team becomes vital.

As a nurse, your knowledge and understanding of the nursing diagnosis for preterm labor can make all the difference. With the right interventions, you can help reduce the risks associated with preterm labor, ensuring better care for pregnant clients and their babies.

What is preterm labor?

Preterm labor is the period between weeks 20 and 37 of pregnancy when contractions become more regular, causing the cervix to start opening in preparation for delivery.

If not recognized and managed promptly, it can lead to preterm birth, which carries risks for the newborn.

These risks include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Digestive (intestinal) problems
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)

What are the signs of preterm labor?

The symptoms of preterm labor may vary from person to person, but some common signs include:

  • Fluid leakage or a gush of fluid from the vagina (premature rupture of membranes)
  • Increase in pelvic pressure or a feeling of the baby “dropping”
  • Intermittent or continuous dull lower back pain
  • Menstrual-like cramps
  • Uterine contractions (every 10 minutes or more)
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting

What are the risk factors of preterm labor?

The exact cause of preterm labor isn’t fully understood, but some factors that may increase the risk include:

  • Having a history of premature birth or preterm labor
  • Chronic conditions like autoimmune diseases, depression, diabetes, and hypertension
  • Infections involving the lower genital organs and amniotic fluid
  • Pregnancy with multiples
  • Smoking cigarettes or using illegal drugs
  • Vaginal bleeding while pregnant

However, it’s important to remember that preterm labor can happen in pregnant clients with no known risk factors.

What is a nursing diagnosis for preterm labor

A nursing diagnosis is a clinical judgment nurses make to identify and prioritize a client’s unique health care needs.

It guides the nurse in planning and implementing appropriate nursing care plans tailored to specific circumstances. Here are some key nursing diagnoses associated with preterm labor and interventions to help clients.

Activity intolerance

Activity intolerance can occur during preterm labor because of fatigue and the pain associated with contractions.

An intervention is to assess the client’s activity level and encourage rest periods.

Acute pain

The contractions in preterm labor can be intense and lead to complications if not properly treated.

First, assess pain levels, administer pain relief medications as prescribed, and explore non-pharmacological pain management techniques to ensure the client is comfortable during labor.

Aromatherapy, massage, music therapy, and relaxation techniques are some methods used to reduce acute pain in preterm labor.

Administering medications

There are medications to slow down labor, speed up lung development in the baby’s lungs, or control the client’s health conditions that might contribute to preterm labor.

It’s important to administer medications properly and to educate the client on how to take them. You should also be aware of potential side effects, monitor vital signs, and report any abnormalities immediately.


Preterm labor can be emotionally overwhelming for the client.

Begin with an assessment of their mental state, provide emotional support, and teach coping mechanisms to reduce stress or anxiety.

Knowledge deficit

A knowledge deficit is a common diagnosis because many clients are unaware of the signs and symptoms of preterm labor.

After assessing a client’s knowledge, you should provide comprehensive information so they understand the importance of early recognition and seeking medical help.

Risk for fetal injury

Fetal injury is another potential complication of preterm labor.

The nurse should assess for signs of fetal distress and act quickly if they detect abnormalities. To reduce fetal injury risk, educate expectant clients and carefully monitor their vital signs during early labor.

Risk for maternal injury

Due to the acceleration of labor and delivery in preterm labor, there’s an increased risk of maternal injury.

Monitor the client’s vital signs closely and look for any signs of trauma or distress during the birthing process. To reduce the risk of injury during preterm labor, a health care provider (HCP) may require specialized instruments for vaginal delivery.

Enhance your skills and knowledge with SimpleNursing

The nursing diagnosis for preterm labor is an essential aspect of prenatal care.

As a nurse, your role in this process can significantly impact the client’s and baby’s health outcomes. To further enhance your skills and knowledge, sign up for a free trial membership for SimpleNursing.

Our platform provides many resources to simplify your nursing education journey.

Start your free trial today and take a step towards becoming a more competent, confident, and compassionate nurse.

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