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Preterm birth can happen to any pregnant woman. But it happens more often to some women than others. Researchers have found some risk factors for preterm birth, but they still can’t predict which women will give birth too early.
Having a risk factor doesn’t mean you definitely will have preterm birth. It just means you’re more likely than women who don’t have the risk factor to have your baby early.
Who is at risk for preterm birth?
Three groups of women are at greatest risk for preterm birth:
These groups of women are at increased risk of having preterm birth:
If any of these groups describe you, talk to your health care provider about things you can do to help reduce your risk for preterm birth. Also, learn the signs of preterm labor and what to do if they happen to you.
Are there lifestyle and environmental risks for preterm birth?
Yes. Some studies have found that certain lifestyle factors may put you at greater risk of preterm birth. These include:
Are there medical risks for preterm birth?
Yes. Certain medical conditions during pregnancy may increase your chances of having preterm birth, including:
What can you do to reduce your risk for preterm birth?
Even if you have one of the risk factors for preterm birth, it doesn’t mean you will give birth early. It just means that you are more likely to have preterm birth than a woman who doesn’t have a risk factor. Still, knowing you're at risk can be scary.
Here’s what you can do to help reduce your risk for preterm birth.
The March of Dimes is funding research to better understand risk factors and the causes of preterm birth.
Last reviewed October 2011