WHAT CAUSES PRETERM LABOR?
The specific cause of preterm labor or preterm birth for a particular woman can be difficult to identify. Medical professionals estimate that about 50 percent of preterm births occur spontaneously and without an identifiable cause.
THERE ARE MANY POTENTIAL CAUSES, INCLUDING:
- Low body weight
- Poor nutrition
- Irritable uterus (frequent contractions that may or may not dilate and/or shorten and/or thin the cervix)
- Less than 18 months between deliveries
- A physically demanding occupation, or one where you are standing for hours at a time
- Age (risks are higher for women under 18 and for women over 40)
- Previous trauma to the cervix, such as a cone biopsy, a terminated pregnancy, or a D&C following miscarriage
OTHER RISK FACTORS HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED BY DOCTORS AND RESEARCHERS, INCLUDING:
- Previous preterm labor or preterm birth
- Multiple gestation (carrying more than one baby)
- Previous second-trimester miscarriage
- A short cervix or abnormal cervix
- Incompetent cervix (dilation of the cervix before labor begins)
- Lack of prenatal care
- Lack of dental care
- Infection including but not limited to: gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis, group B strep, urinary tract or bladder infection
- Disease including but not limited to: preeclampsia, diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease
- Depression and anxiety
- Drinking alcohol, smoking, or illegal drug use
- An irregular-shaped uterus
- Premature rupture of membranes (PROM)
- Crohn's disease
- IUD still in place
- Cesarean section (either medically necessary or elective performed too early based on inaccurate date of conception, or scheduled for convenience)
If you think you may be at risk for preterm labor or preterm birth, tell your doctor about your risk factors and ask about the preventive measures you can take, including 17P injections, cervical length measurements, the fetal fibronectin test, and bed rest.
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