Premature Labor/Birth Risk Factors: In 2010, more than a third of infant deaths were due to complications from preterm births- making prematurity the most common cause of infant mortality. Infants born premature have increased rates of health problems and lifelong disabilities. Some of these complications include intellectual disabilities, behavioral problems, cerebral palsy, lung problems, vision and hearing loss, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Babies born before the 34th week of pregnancy (very or moderately preterm) have the highest risk for early death and enduring health problems. Recent research has shown that even late preterm infants (34-36 weeks) have greater health risks than full-term babies.
The underlying causes of premature birth are not well understood, but genetic, social, and environmental factors likely all play a role. Women with a previous premature birth, a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, or more), and a number of medical conditions are at increased risk for preterm birth. Lifestyle factors such as stress and smoking can also elevate risk. Check out this infographic to learn more about some of the biggest risk factors for premature labor and birth:
Premature Labor/Birth Risk Factors: #1 Personal History
Women who have had a previous preterm birth are between 30-50% likely to have another.
Premature Labor/Birth Risk Factors: #2 Birth Spacing
Studies show that pregnancies that occur close together can increase the risk for preterm birth.
Premature Labor/Birth Risk Factors: #3 In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Although scientists aren't clear why, women who conceive via IVF seem to have an increased risk for preterm birth.
Premature Labor/Birth Risk Factors: #4 Twins/Multiples
50% of twins, 90% of triplets, and nearly all quadruplets or higher multiples are born premature.
Premature Labor/Birth Risk Factors: #5 Air Pollution
16,000 preterm births have been linked to air pollution in the United States.
Premature Labor/Birth Risk Factors: #6 Parental Depression
Mothers who had new and recurring depression had a 30-40% increased risk of delivering their baby between 32-36 weeks after pregnancy (moderately preterm).
Depression in fathers is associated with a 38% increased risk of their child being born between 22-31 weeks after pregnancy (very preterm).
Premature Labor/Birth Risk Factors: #7 Infections
Infections such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) and urinary tract infections (UTIs) can cause preterm labor in pregnant women.