Reducing Your Risk for Preterm Labor and Delivery

There are steps that you can take before you become pregnant and during your pregnancy to reduce your risk of preterm labor and delivery.

Take Care of Your Health

  • Get good prenatal care. See your healthcare provider before trying to get pregnant. See your healthcare provider regularly during your pregnancy. Go to all your prenatal appointments, even if you feel fine.
  • Get treatment for any infections. For example, if you feel burning or pain when you urinate, tell your healthcare provider. You may have a bladder infection.
  • If you take prescription drugs, ask your healthcare provider if they are safe before or during pregnancy.
  • If you use herbal supplements, stop them before trying to get pregnant. Check with your healthcare provider on the safety of any supplements before using them.

Eat a Healthy Diet and Stay Active

  • Eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Do not skip meals.
  • Consider adding fish to your diet. It may reduce the risk of preterm birth.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Stay active during your pregnancy. Your healthcare provider can give you exercise guidelines.

Make Lifestyle Changes

  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how to quit. Smoking increases the risk of pregnancy complications, including premature birth. If you quit smoking, your risk of premature birth becomes similar to that of mothers who are nonsmokers. This is just one of the many benefits of quitting.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Do not drink any alcohol while you are trying to get pregnant or during pregnancy.
  • Do not use illegal drugs.

If you have a problem stopping alcohol or illegal drugs, have an honest talk with your healthcare provider.

Take Care of Your Mental Health

  • Learn strategies to reduce stress.
  • Physical and emotional abuse is harmful to you and your baby. If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help from your healthcare provider, family, or friends. You can also call organizations like the at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Learn the Signs of Preterm Labor

To reduce the risk of preterm labor progressing to preterm delivery, learn the signs of preterm labor. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any signs of preterm labor.

High Risk Women

Women with a history of preterm births may need to have extra care to prevent preterm labor. Your healthcare provider may recommend progesterone therapy during pregnancy or having a cerclage placed.



Abuse during pregnancy. March of Dimes website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed March 7, 2018.
Preterm (premature) labor and birth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 2016. Accessed March 7, 2018.
Prevention of preterm labor and preterm birth. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated February 20, 2017. Accessed March 7, 2018.
Reduce your risk of preterm labor and birth. March of Dimes website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 2018. Accessed March 7, 2018.
7/21/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed... : McCowan LM, Dekker GA, Chan E, et al. Spontaneous preterm birth and small for gestational age infants in women who stop smoking early in pregnancy: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2009;338:b1081.
3/31/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed... : Englund-Ögge L, Brantsæter AL, Sengpiel V, et al. Maternal dietary patterns and preterm delivery: results from large prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2014;348:g1446.
4/24/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed... : Leventakou V, Roumeliotaki T, Martinez D, et al. Fish intake during pregnancy, fetal growth, and gestational length in 19 European birth cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;99(3):506-516.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 3/15/2015

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.