• Reducing Your Risk for Preterm Labor and Delivery

    There are steps that you can take before you become pregnant and during your pregnancy to reduce your risk preterm labor and delivery.

    Take Care of Your Health

    • Get good prenatal care. See your doctor before trying to get pregnant. See your doctor regularly during your pregnancy. Go to all your prenatal appointments, even if you feel fine.
    • Get treatment for any infections. For example, if you feel burning or pain when you urinate, tell your doctor. You may have a bladder infection .
    • If you take prescription drugs, ask your doctor if they are safe before or during pregnancy.
    • If you use herbal supplements, stop them before trying to get pregnant. Check with your doctor on the safety of any supplements before using them.

    Eat a Healthy Diet and Stay Active

    • Eat a well-balanced diet . Do not skip meals.
    • Stay active during your pregnancy. Your doctor can give you exercise guidelines.

    Make Lifestyle Changes

    • If you smoke , quit . Smoking increases the risk of pregnancy complications, like premature birth . If you quit smoking, your risk of premature birth becomes similar to that of mothers who are nonsmokers. This is just one of the many benefits of quitting.
    • Also avoid secondhand smoke.
    • Do not drink alcohol while you are trying to get pregnant or during pregnancy.
    • Do not use illegal drugs .

    Take Care of Your Mental Health

    • Learn strategies to reduce stress .
    • Physical and emotional abuse is harmful to you and your baby. If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help from your doctor, family, or friends. You can also call organizations like the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

    Learn the Signs of Preterm Labor

    To reduce the risk of preterm labor progressing to preterm delivery, learn the signs of preterm labor. Call your doctor right away if you have any signs of preterm labor.


    Abuse during pregnancy. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/stayingsafe%5Fabuse.html . Updated October 2008. Accessed April 6, 2012.

    Assessment of Risk Factors for Preterm Birth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Practice Bulletin No. 31. October 2001.

    Preterm labor. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/ . Accessed June 1, 2009.

    Preterm labor. University of Michigan Health System website. Available at: http://www.med.umich.edu/ . Accessed September 23, 2005.

    Prevention of preterm labor and preterm birth. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated April 4, 2012. Accessed April 6, 2012.

    What can I do to reduce my risk of having a premature baby? March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/prematurity/13454%5F5811.asp . Accessed September 23, 2005.

    7/21/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : McCowan LM, Dekker GA, Chan E, et al. Spontaneous preterm birth and small for gestational age infants in women who stop smoking early in pregnancy: prospective cohort study. BMJ . 2009;338:b1081.

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