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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Illicit Drug Use and Pregnancy

relationship between illicit drug use and preterm birth

Illicit Drug Use & Preterm Birth

Illicit drugs, including polydrug use (using/mixing a number of drugs), increase the risk for poor perinatal outcomes, including preterm birth and restricted fetal growth. Alcohol, cocaine, and heroin have negative effects on fetal development, in varying degrees, and can lead to preterm birth and/or low birth weight (LBW). Low birth weight is categorised as those preterm babies born less than 2,500 grams or 5 pound 8 ounces. Although the figures may vary, preterm birth rates exceeding 16% have been found among pregnant women drug addicts compared with less than 10% among pregnant non-drug users.

(Dew, Guillory, Okah, Cai, & Hoff, 2007; Kaminski, Rumeau, & Schwartz, 1978; Kennare, Heard, & Chan, 2005; Sokol et al., 2007)

Cocaine use in pregnancy is associated with preterm birth, congenital infection, and withdrawal syndrome, with secondary issues such as lack of prenatal care, and significant social and obstetric complications that can result in increased health problems for infants. A study conducted in 2002 reported that fetal cocaine exposure significantly predicted poorer birth outcomes, lower birth weight, head circumference, and length. The higher the concentration of metabolites of cocaine the poorer were outcomes.

(Ogunyemi & Hernandez-Loera, 2004; Singer et al., 2002)

To know more about how illicit drug use affects pregnant women, you can visit or Addiction Center or search for similar sites that deal with the issue/s in your area.


Australia Wide

  • In 2004, 6% of women who were pregnant and/or breastfeeding in the past 12 months reported using an illicit drug whilst pregnant and/or breastfeeding.
(AIHW, 2004)



AlbertEinstein_iconOne of the greatest minds in history, Albert Einstein was born preterm.

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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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