Updated October 2013

Reducing the risk of premature birth

Treatments for those at risk of premature birth

The kind of treatment you get will depend on the reason why you are considered at high risk of giving birth prematurely.

If you have an infection

Infection is a major cause of premature birth. Infections can be caused by a range of bugs, from E Coli and group B streptococcus (which can cause urinary tract infections and kidney infections) to sexually transmitted diseases and common conditions affecting the urinary tract.

Read about the treatment for infections here

If you have pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy-related condition that can lead to eclampsia - a serious disease that can cause seizures, liver and kidney failure, difficulty with breathing and blood clots. Eclampsia may affect the baby's growth, and can be life-threatening to both mother and baby.

Read about the treatment for pre-eclampsia here

Problems with the cervix (cervical weakness or incompetence)

If you have had one or more premature babies or cervical surgery in the past and your cervix is getting shorter in early pregnancy, or if you have had a number of premature deliveries but your cervix has not shortened, you may be offered a cervical stitch (also known as a cerclage or cervical suture).

Read about the treatment for cervical weakness/incompetent cervix here

If there are signs you are going into labour

Many women experience signs of labour without giving birth prematurely. However, you should always call your hospital or midwife if you think you are about to go into labour prematurely.

Read about going into labour early here

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In this section

Reducing the risk of premature birth:

You can also read about

The following organisations can give you more information about the topics covered in this section.


Rennie, JA (2005) Roberton's Textbook of Neonatology (4th ed), London, Churchill Livingstone, p188

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2006, reviewed 2010) The Management of Severe Pre-eclampsia/Eclampsia, http://www.rcog.org.uk/files/rcog-corp/GTG10a230611.pdf


On this page

If you have an infection

If you have pre-eclampsia

Problems with the cervix

If there are signs you are going into labour

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Feedback on health information

'In the morning I'd felt slightly unwell - coldy or fluey - then in the afternoon I went for my regular tests and internal scan and the doctor said he thought my cervix was "funneling". They did an amniocentesis and confirmed that I had an infection.'



If you have headaches, visual disturbances, pain in your upper abdomen or are throwing up, contact your healthcare team. They should check your blood pressure and the level of protein in your urine to rule out pre-eclampsia.