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Preventing Early Births

Because medical experts are not able to identify what causes preterm labor, there are many signs you should be aware of and discuss with your physician, midwife, or birth worker as soon as possible.


  • Seek early and regular prenatal care. Prenatal visits can help your health care provider monitor your health and your baby's health. Seeking early and regular prenatal care allows you to discuss any signs or symptoms that concern you.

  • Eat a balanced and healthy diet. Good nutrition is an important part of a healthy pregnancy. Some research suggests that a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) is associated with a lower risk of premature birth. PUFAs are found in nuts, seeds, fish and seed oils.

  • Avoid risky substances. If you smoke, it is important to try to quit as early as possible. Discuss your options with your provider. There are smoking cessation programs available to you that can increase your chances of success. It is also important not to use illicit drugs or alcohol during your pregnancy.

  • Consider pregnancy spacing. Some research suggests a link between pregnancies spaced less than six months apart, or more than 59 months apart, and an increased risk of preterm birth. Consider talking to your health care provider about pregnancy spacing

  • Be cautious when using assisted reproductive technology (ART). If you are planning to use ART to get pregnant, consider how many embryos will be implanted. Implanting more than one embryo increases your chances of a multiple pregnancy, which carries a higher risk of preterm labor.

    • What is ART? Assisted reproductive technology (ART) includes medical procedures used primarily to address infertility. ​

  • Manage chronic conditions. Certain conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, increase the risk of preterm labor. Work with your health care provider to keep any chronic conditions under control.

Signs Of Labor

Know the Signs of Preterm Labor

Knowing the signs of labor can provide you with the knowledge needed in the event of premature labor:

  • Change in your vaginal discharge (watery, mucus or bloody) or more vaginal discharge than usual  

  • Pressure in your pelvis or lower belly, like your baby is pushing down  

  • Constant low, dull backache  

  • Belly cramps with or without diarrhea  

  • Regular or frequent contractions that make your belly tighten like a fist. The contractions may or may not be painful. 

  • Your water breaks ** 

Contact your doctor immediately or go to your hospital's emergency department to be examined.  


Do you have a non-emergency topic that you'd like more information about?  You can submit a question to our "Ask the Dr.!" team and we'll do our best to include in it our periodic video updates.  If you have an emergency question or concern, please contact your provider.

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