Learn What Can Trigger Preterm Labor and What to Do


Preterm labor — labor that begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy — can lead to premature birth, which increases a baby’s risk of short- and long-term health risks. Learn more about your individual risk for preterm labor by talking with your midwife or OB. Approximately 1 in 10 babies in the United States are born preterm. The following is a list of events or conditions that can trigger preterm labor. 

  • History of previous preterm labor or premature birth 
  • Multiples pregnancy 
  • Infections
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Being under or overweight
  • Smoking 
  • Under 20 years of age or over 35 years of age
  • Illegal drug use or prescription drug abuse 
  • Issues with uterus or cervix 
  • Stress
  • Early placental separation
  • Premature rupture of membranes (water breaking)
  • Birth defects
  • Family history of premature birth
  • Getting pregnant quickly after prior birth (18 months is the recommended wait time)
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure 
  • Domestic violence
  • Event that causes injury to the abdomen or pelvic region, like a car accident or fall

Signs of premature labor include dull low backache, cramps in your abdomen or pelvic region, contractions (uterus tightens and releases – belly feels hard and then soft), water breaks, pressure down low in pelvis / vagina or rectum, and changes to discharge – blood or mucous. If you experience any of these, call your provider right away as they may be able to stop labor.   

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