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- Low socioeconomic status
- Lack of prenatal care and social support
- Being underweight or obese before becoming pregnant
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Severe depression or anxiety
- High blood pressure
- Celiac disease
- Clotting disorders
- Hormonal imbalance
- Certain medications or exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES)
- Illicit drug use
- Alcohol use
- Pre-eclampsia (hypertension)
- Placental abruption(separation from the uterus)
- Premature rupture of the membranes
- Carrying more than one baby
- Vaginal bleeding after 16 weeks, or during more than one trimester
- Infection in the cervix, uterus, vagina, or urinary tract including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Being pregnant with a single fetus after in vitro fertilization (IVF)
- Presence of a retained intrauterine device (IUD)
- Incompetent cervix
- Too much or too little fluid surrounding the baby
- Surgery on your abdomen during pregnancy
- Amniotic fluid infection
- Intrauterine fetal death
- Intrauterine growth delay
- Birth defects in the baby
- History of 1 or more spontaneous second-trimester miscarriages
- Less than 6 months between giving birth and the beginning of the next pregnancy
- A previous preterm birth
- Uterine fibroids
- Abnormally shaped uterus
- Previous weight reduction surgery
- Procedures to remove abnormal cervical cells
- Abdominal pain that feels something like menstrual cramps
- Dull pain in the lower back
- Pressure in the pelvis and tightening in the thighs
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting, or watery discharge
- Tocolytics—may delay labor for a few days
- Corticosteroids—to help the baby's lungs develop
- Antibiotics—if an infection is suspected or present
- Get the proper prenatal care throughout your entire pregnancy.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Consider adding fish to your diet. It may reduce the risk of preterm birth.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, and drugs.
- Keep chronic diseases under control.
- Stay active during your pregnancy. Your doctor can give you exercise guidelines that are right for you.
- If you are at high-risk for premature birth, talk to your doctor about progesterone therapy or cervical cerclage, a procedure that closes the cervix with sutures.
- Reviewer: Marcie L. Sidman, MD
- Review Date: 03/2016
- Update Date: 07/15/2016