Causes and Risk Factors - a quick look

quick look preemiehelp

Although the cause of preterm birth is often unknown, expectant parents need not leave it purely to chance. There are a number of things a potential or expectant mother should and should NOT do, to limit the chances of preterm birth.


Healthy mother, healthy baby

The cause/s of preterm birth may be due to a number of very different events or triggers. Although there are a lot of risks identified there are no good predictors of preterm birth. This section is intended to give you a guide and a better understanding of the risks, some of which are easier to avoid than others depending on your personal circumstances.
Preemie help is here to help you identify any factors you may be able to avoid.


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Cervical insufficiency

A number of maternal medical conditions, such as cervical insufficiency, diabetes, hypertension, and preeclampsia increase a mother's risk of having a preemie baby.

Cervical Insufficiency

Cervical insufficiency is a medical condition where a pregnant woman’s cervix begins to widen and reduce in thickness before her pregnancy has reached term. Cervical insufficiency caused by congenital cervical weakness, surgery, or trauma has been found to cause preterm birth in some mothers. For example, vaginal bleeding caused by placental abruption or placenta previa is associated with a very high risk of preterm delivery. Cervical change, either a shortened or enlarged cervix, particularly between 24 and 28 weeks, also indicates an elevated risk.

Anatomical defects of a woman’s uterus also put them at risk of reproductive difficulties, including first- and second-trimester pregnancy losses, higher rates of preterm labour and birth, and abnormal fetal presentation.

(Mattison, Damus, Fiore, Petrini, & Alter, 2001; Shennan & Jones, 2004; Cabrol, 1991; Propst & Hill, 2000).

Other Maternal Medical Conditions

A number of maternal medical disorders or diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and preeclampsia are associated with increased maternal and neonatal health difficulties and mortality, as well as increased rates of preterm delivery.

(Goldenberg, Culhane, Iams, & Romero, 2008).

Technical Reference List

Cabrol, D. (1991). Cervical distensibility changes in pregnancy, term, and preterm labor. Seminars in Perinatology, 15(2), 133-139.
Goldenberg, R. L., Culhane, J. F., Iams, J. D., & Romero, R. (2008). Epidemiology and causes of preterm birth. Lancet, 371(9606), 75-84.
Mattison, D. R., Damus, K., Fiore, E., Petrini, J., & Alter, C. (2001). Preterm delivery: a public health perspective. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol, 15 Suppl 2, 7-16.
Propst, A. M., & Hill, J. A., 3rd. (2000). Anatomic factors associated with recurrent pregnancy loss. Semin Reprod Med, 18(4), 341-350.
Shennan, A., & Jones, B. (2004). The cervix and prematurity: aetiology, prediction and prevention. Semin Fetal Neonatal Med, 9(6), 471-479.



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Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 

Read More: Defining Preterm birth



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