Why does a history of preterm labor make me more likely to have it again?

Because many preterm births are caused by recurrent conditions, medical professionals consider a previous premature birth to be one of the biggest risk factors for premature births that might happen later.

This doesn’t mean that women who have previously experienced premature deliveries will definitely deliver prematurely again, but it does mean that all women who had previous premature births, no matter what the reason behind them might have been, will be getting a little extra attention from their healthcare providers as their due dates near. Many may even be referred to specialists in premature delivery to keep an eye on their pregnancies.

Why does a history of preterm labor make future preterm labor more likely?

There are a few reasons why the reasons for a previous premature birth could be relevant in later pregnancies. The first is purely physical – if, say, a woman’s cervix was weakened by an abdominal injury, which contributed to a first premature birth, it’s totally possible that it could also cause a second premature birth. The same thing is true if there were hormonal factors in a previous preterm labor, or any other physical reason that might not have changed or gone away during the time between pregnancies.

The other factor is lifestyle – weight, smoking, and drinking can all contribute to preterm delivery, and women who don’t change the lifestyle factors that might have been a part of a previous preterm birth are more likely to face another preterm delivery.

Again, there are plenty of women who have of preterm delivery, and still go on to carry later pregnancies to term, but it’s a good idea to be aware of the ways previous preterm deliveries can affect future births.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team


  • “Thinking about pregnancy after premature birth.” MarchofDimes. March of Dimes Foundation, Jan 2013. Web.
  • MM Adams, et al. “Rates of and factors associated with recurrence of preterm delivery.” JAMA. 283(12):1591-6. Web. Mar 2000.
  • Sophie MS Liem, et al. “Cervical Pessaries for the Prevention of Preterm Birth: A Systematic Review.” Obstet Gynecol Int. 2013: 576723. Web. 2013.
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