Last updated September 2011. Planned review date: September 2013
Premature birth and your pregnancy/medical history
Your history of previous pregnancies and your medical history are factors in determining your risk of premature delivery.
If you have had a premature baby in the past, you are more likely to have a premature delivery in future pregnancies.
In fact, the main risk factor for premature delivery is previous premature delivery. The more premature deliveries you have had, and the earlier your babies were born, the higher the risk of premature delivery in a future pregnancy.
You're also more likely to go into premature labour if:
- this is your first baby
- you had bleeding in a previous pregnancy
- you have had one or more abortions
- you have had a cervical trauma, such as treatment for an abnormal smear test
- your stomach has been injured (for example, because of physical violence or if you were in a car crash).
In this section
Explaining premature birth:
Your premature baby:
You can also read about
Danielan P, Hall M (2005) Preterm labour: managing risk in clinical practice, New York, Cambridge University Press
BMJ Clinical Evidence (2011, accessed Sept 2011) Premature birth, Aetiology, Best Practice, http://bestpractice.bmj.com/best-practice/monograph/1002/basics/aetiology.html
Norman JE, Greer IA (2006) Preterm labour: managing risk in clinical practice Cambridge University Press; p26-76
Henderson D, Macdonald S (2004) Mayes’ Midwifery, (13th edition), London, Bailliere Tindall, p 854
Voigt M, Henrich W, Zygmunt M et al (2009) Is induced abortion a risk factor in subsequent pregnancy?, Journal of Perinatal Medicine, Vol 37, No 2, p144-9
Chandiramani M, Shennan AH (2008) Cervical insufficiency: prediction, diagnosis and prevention, The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist,10: 99–106.
Williams JK, McClain L, Rosemurgy AS, Colorado NM (1990) Evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma in the third trimester of pregnancy: maternal and fetal considerations, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Jan;75(1):33-7.
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'I'd had two late miscarriages before my premature baby so they tested me for everything - blood tests, scans, and so on. They never found a reason and I just had to accept that.'
'It's natural for women to want answers. Sometimes there is an obvious cause and we can explain it, but other times we don't know why they went into premature labour. Hopefully the research we're carrying out in our clinic will eventually give us answers to these questions.'
DANIELLE ABBOTT, CLINICAL RESEARCH FELLOW IN OBSTETRICS, ST THOMAS' HOSPITAL, LONDON