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

  • 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 well-balanced diet. Do not skip meals.
  • Stay active during your pregnancy. Your doctor can give you exercise guidelines.
  • 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.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Do not drink alcohol while you are trying to get pregnant or during pregnancy.
  • Do not use illegal drugs.
  • 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-SAFE (7233).

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.

Women with a history of preterm births may need to have extra care to prevent preterm labor. Your doctor may recommend progesterone therapy during pregnancy or having a cerclage placed.

References:

Abuse during pregnancy. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/stayingsafe_abuse.html. Updated October 2008. Accessed April 23, 2013.

Preterm labor. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq087.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130423T0923201528. Accessed April 23, 2013.

Prevention of preterm labor and preterm birth. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated January 16, 2013 . Accessed April 23, 2013.

Reduce your risk of preterm labor and birth. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/pretermlabor_reducerisk.html. Updated September 2012. Accessed April 23, 2013.

7/21/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: 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.

Last reviewed June 2013 by Andrea Chisholm

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.