A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to have
with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of having preterm labor. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
Non-white women under the 18 years or over 35 years have an increased risk of preterm labor. Other factors that may increase your risk include:
Current and past pregnancy:
- A previous preterm birth
- Premature rupture of the membranes
- Carrying more than one baby
- Vaginal bleeding after 16 weeks, or during more than one trimester
Being pregnant with a single fetus after
in vitro fertilization (IVF)
- Less than six months between giving birth and the beginning of the next pregnancy
- Presence of a retained intrauterine device
- History of one or more spontaneous second-trimester abortions
- Too much or too little fluid in the amniotic sac surrounding the baby
Surgery on your abdomen during pregnancy
- Intrauterine fetal death
- Intrauterine growth delay
- Birth defects in the baby
History of reproductive organ problems:
- Uterine fibroids
- Abnormally shaped uterus
- Incompetent cervix—The cervix dilates too early in the pregnancy
- Infection in the cervix, uterus, or vagina
- Amniotic fluid infection
- Urinary tract infections
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES)—Before its dangers were known, DES was given to pregnant women to decrease the risk of miscarriage; if your mother took DES while she was pregnant with you, your reproductive organs may be damaged. DES has not been used since the 1970s.
Physical and psychological causes:
Being underweight or
prior to pregnancy
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
depression or anxiety
- High blood pressure
- Clotting disorders
- Hormonal imbalance
- Certain medications to treat health problems
Prematurity. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated April 18, 2013 . Accessed April 23, 2013.
Preterm labor. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at:
. Accessed April 23, 2013.
Preterm labor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated March 15, 2013 . Accessed April 23, 2013.
Preterm labor and birth. March of Dimes website. Available at:
. Updated September 2012. Accessed April 23, 2013.
Who is at risk for preterm labor and birth? National Institute of Child Health & Human Development website. Available at:
. Updated November 30, 2012. Accessed April 23, 2013.
7/21/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Kramer MS, Lydon J, Séguin L, et al. Stress pathways to spontaneous preterm birth: the role of stressors, psychological distress, and stress hormones.
Am J Epidemiol. 2009;169:1319-1326.
1/22/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Calderon-Margalit R, Qiu C, Ornoy A, Siscovick DS, Williams MA. Risk of preterm delivery and other adverse perinatal outcomes in relation to maternal use of psychotropic medications during pregnancy.
Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009;201(6):579.e1-8.
8/23/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: McDonald SD, Han Z, Mulla S, Beyene J; Knowledge Synthesis Group. Overweight and obesity in mothers and risk of preterm birth and low birth weight infants: systematic review and meta-analyses.
Last reviewed April 2013 by Andrea Chisholm; Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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