Reducing the risk of premature birth

Most preterm babies arrive without warning. However, some pregnancies are known to be at risk of ending in preterm birth due to maternal or baby reasons – if this is the case your health care professional will prepare for it and offer some interventions that help improve the outcome for your preterm baby.

In some cases your doctor may suggest treatment to try and delay the birth  to give your baby more time to develop in the womb, but this is not always possible and your doctor will explain the reasons for and against this.

Sometimes it is safest to deliver the baby preterm, for example if you have certain types of infection  or severe pre-eclampsia, or if your baby has a health problem. If this is the case then your healthcare professional may actually advise you to have the baby early, by induction of labour or caesarean section.

Using all the information available about your pregnancy, your healthcare professionals will do their best to reduce your risk of premature birth and get the best outcome for you and your baby. There are steps that can help to minimise the risk factors and health problems of premature labour and preterm birth.

First, it is very important to receive all of the antenatal care that is offered so that your risk of having a premature baby may be fully assessed during pregnancy, and any treatment planned. If you are found to be at risk of preterm birth then your healthcare team may decide that further care is needed, which will vary depending on the reason you are at risk. Second, is to reduce some of the lifestlye factors that are linked to preterm birth. These include consumption of alcohol, especially during the first trimester, smoking, mother's weight, using recreational drugs and age (teenage or over 35).  Although the reasons for prematurely born babies are still not fully understood, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of prematurity.