10 Possible Causes of Premature Birth

We have a list of 10 possible causes of premature birth, with a short description of each.

Existing Medical conditions

If the pregnant woman has a pre-existing medical condition or chronic illness, she’s highly likely to have a premature birth. These conditions include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease, among others. Women who are overweight or underweight before and during pregnancy also have a higher risk for premature births.

History of Premature Births

If a woman has delivered a premature baby previously, it is two and a half times more likely for her to have another premature birth for subsequent pregnancies. If the previous birth was before the 28th week of pregnancy, she’s 10 times more likely to go into labour prematurely. Women who’ve had multiple miscarriages or abortions or complicated pregnancies are also at risk.

Physiological Problems

There are many factors relating to the body’s organs that make a woman more likely to go into labour prematurely. It could be a problem with the uterus, placenta or cervix.

A weak or insufficient cervix or a short cervix may open up earlier than required, leading to premature labour. A placenta in an abnormal position or which separates from the uterus early can also lead to premature birth. If the sac surrounding the fetus breaks, the mother can go into premature labour.

Carrying Multiples

Many premature births involve multiple babies, like twins or triplets. Fifty per cent of twins are born at or before 36 weeks while fifty per cent of triplets are born before 32 weeks.  In short, the more babies in the uterus, the earlier the birth. The reason for this is that with multiple babies, the uterus becomes over-distended, leading to premature labour.


An infection is an important cause of premature birth. It could be any kind of infection – gum disease, urinary tract infection, vaginal infections or an infection of the amniotic membrane. This is why mothers-to-be are routinely screened for infections which can almost double the risk of premature birth.

Pregnancy-related Factors

It has been seen that mothers who conceive via methods like in vitro fertilization tend to have a greater chance of premature birth. Another factor that comes into play is the gap between pregnancies. If a woman gets pregnant in less than six months after delivering a baby, she’s likely to have a premature birth this time around. Nutrition before and during pregnancy can also impact the timing of the baby’s birth.

Smoking, Alcohol or Drug Abuse

It is well known that drinking or smoking during pregnancy can result in low birth weight or other health issues in the baby, but it is also a cause for premature births. And it’s not just smoking – any kind of tobacco usage can result in preterm birth. This is because the nicotine in tobacco causes the blood vessels in the uterus to constrict, resulting in preterm labour.

Physical and Emotional Trauma

Severe emotional trauma like death, loss or divorce can take a toll on a woman’s body and can trigger premature birth. Physical injury or domestic violence has also been shown to increase the chances of a woman going into labour prematurely.

Age and Ethnicity

Age plays a role in many aspects of pregnancy and childbirth, and this includes delivering prematurely. A pregnant woman younger than 17 or older than 35 is more at risk of delivering a premature baby than women in the 17-34 age group. African American women are also more vulnerable to premature labour than other ethnicities, although the reason is not known.

Medical Indications

While most cases of premature births happen spontaneously as the mother goes into labour without medical intervention, sometimes the doctors may decide on intentionally delivering the baby early. This is done when there is some medical indication that the health of the baby or mother may be at risk. Such conditions include pre-eclampsia, placental abruption, fetal distress or if the baby is not growing properly due to some problem in the womb.

Article courtesy of My Little Moppet