Background: Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are involved in remodeling of the extracellular matrix (ECM) during pregnancy and parturition. Aberrant ECM degradation by MMPs or an imbalance between MMPs and their tissue inhibitors (TIMPs) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of preterm labor, however few studies have investigated MMPs or TIMPs in maternal serum. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine serum concentrations of MMP-3, MMP-9 and all four TIMPs as well as MMP:TIMP ratios during term and preterm labor. Methods: A case control study with 166 singleton pregnancies, divided into four groups: (1) women with preterm birth, delivering before 34 weeks (PTB); (2) gestational age (GA) matched controls, not in preterm labor; (3) women at term in labor and (4) at term not in labor. MMP and TIMP concentrations were measured using Luminex technology. Results: MMP-9 and TIMP-4 concentrations were higher in women with PTB vs. GA matched controls (resp. p = 0.01 and p<0.001). An increase in MMP-9:TIMP-1 and MMP-9:TIMP-2 ratio was observed in women with PTB compared to GA matched controls (resp. p = 0.02 and p<0.001) as well as compared to women at term in labor (resp. p = 0.006 and p<0.001). Multiple regression results with groups recoded as three key covariates showed significantly higher MMP-9 concentrations, higher MMP-9:TIMP-1 and MMP-9:TIMP-2 ratios and lower TIMP-1 and -2 concentrations for preterm labor. Significantly higher MMP-9 and TIMP-4 concentrations and MMP-9:TIMP-2 ratios were observed for labor. Conclusions: Serum MMP-9:TIMP-1 and MMP-9:TIMP-2 balances are tilting in favor of gelatinolysis during preterm labor. TIMP-1 and -2 concentrations were lower in preterm gestation, irrespective of labor, while TIMP-4 concentrations were raised in labor. These observations suggest that aberrant serum expression of MMP:TIMP ratios and TIMPs reflect pregnancy and labor status, providing a far less invasive method to determine enzymes essential in ECM remodeling during pregnancy and parturition.