Premature labor, which affects 1 in 8 babies every year, occurs when a baby is born prior to the 37th week of gestation. There are certain risk factors that make a woman more susceptible to giving birth prematurely.
• Incidence of pre-term labor in a previous pregnancy: Women who have given birth prematurely in the past are at a greater risk for a preterm baby. Uterine or cervical abnormalities may be to blame in certain cases, but it is generally unknown why this occurs in some women.
• Age: In some cases age can be a factor in preterm labor. Very young women or older women can be at risk.
• Cigarette smoking: The chemicals contained in cigarette smoke can cross the placenta and cause abnormalities that may contribute to premature labor.
• Infection: About 40 to 50 percent of all preterm labor can be traced to a bacterial infection. The good news is that antibiotics can help prevent preterm labor that results from bacterial infection.
• Bleeding: Any type of bleeding, including a bleeding disorder, could affect labor and induce it prematurely.
• Uterine stretching: Overdistension of the uterus has also been linked to preterm labor and birth.