Skip to content

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Understanding Preterm Labor and Birth -- Prevention

Can I Prevent Premature Birth?

The most important things you can do to help have a healthy baby is to be in the best of health before you get pregnant and get prenatal care.

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. Set aside some quiet time every day and ask for help when you need it.
  • 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.

Recent studies have shown that treatment with a hormone called progesterone can prevent preterm birth in certain women. Vaginal progesterone is given to pregnant women found to have a short cervix. And women with a history of a previous preterm birth and who are pregnant with one baby can receive progesterone shots throughout pregnancy to lower their risk of preterm birth.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on March 17, 2015

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

hand circling date on calendar
Track your most fertile days.
woman looking at ultrasound
Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
The signs to watch out for.
pregnant woman in hospital
Are there ways to do it naturally?
slideshow fetal development
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
What Causes Bipolar
Woman trying on dress in store
pregnant woman
Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
healthtool pregnancy calendar
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy