Understanding Preterm Labor and Birth -- Prevention
Can I Prevent Premature Birth?
The most important thing you can do to try to have a healthy baby is to get prenatal care -- and try to be in the best of health before you get pregnant.
It may not be possible to avoid preterm labor and preterm birth, but you can take a few steps that may help. Try to reduce your stress level. Set aside some quiet time every day and ask for help when needed. Researchers have also found a link between gum disease and preterm birth, so brush and floss your teeth daily. If you smoke, quit. Smoking can trigger preterm labor.
Your doctor will check you for risk factors of premature delivery and discuss which precautions you should take. Measuring the length of the cervix using a special transvaginal ultrasound probe can help predict your risk of delivering prematurely. This is usually done between 20 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, if necessary.
Fetal fibronectin is a test that can be used to predict preterm labor. This test is done like a Pap smear, and while it can't tell you for sure that you are in labor, it can tell you if you're not. A woman at risk for preterm delivery can be told what to do if symptoms occur, and may get more tests.