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Preventing Early Labor

We are often asked how an expectant mom can prevent the baby from being born too early. Preterm (early) delivery before 39 weeks can't always be prevented. But taking care of yourself is also the best way to take care of your baby.

Prenatal care is the health care you get while you're pregnant. Start prenatal care as soon as you know you are pregnant, and keep checkup appointments throughout your pregnancy.

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Here are some other things you can do to lower the chance of going into labor early:

  • Get any health issues, like diabetes, managed and under control.
  • Don't smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs.
  • Eat a healthy diet (getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, etc.) and exercise if your doctor says it's OK.
  • Gain a healthy amount of weight (not too much or too little).
  • Protect yourself from infections (including Zika). Be sure to wash your hands well and often; don't eat raw meat, fish, or unpasteurized cheese; get any immunizations your doctor recommends; and use condoms to protect against STDs.
  • Reduce stress in your life (find help for financial troubles, get support from family or friends, etc.).

Other things that can increase a pregnant woman's chance of early labor include:

  • being overweight or obese
  • being African American
  • having had a previous preterm birth
  • carrying multiples, like twins or triplets
  • problems with the uterus, cervix, or vagina
  • infections like STDs or urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • having had a recent pregnancy (less than 18 months ago)
  • difficult problems like unemployment, domestic violence, etc.

Talk to your doctor if you have any of these risks. In many cases, your doctor can help — such as offering progesterone shots to lower your chances of a preterm birth or prescribing antibiotics to fight infection.

Your doctor also can connect you with counselors or social workers who can help if you're dealing with addiction, financial troubles, or other problems.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: November 2016

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2018 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by Cook Children's, The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and

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