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How to Help Prevent Giving Birth Prematurely

Increase the odds that you will carry your baby to term with these measures, which can help prevent you from giving birth prematurely.


  • Step 1: Unless your doctor has placed you on dietary restrictions, enjoy chocolate. One study found eating chocolate 1 to 3 times a week during pregnancy was associated with reduced rates of pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure -- 2 conditions linked with giving birth prematurely.
  • Step 2: Don't feel guilty if you do everything right and still give birth prematurely. Preterm labor and birth can happen in a seemingly healthy pregnancy, through no fault of the mother.
  • FACT: 1 in 8 American women give birth prematurely.
  • TIP: If you experience any complications related to your cervix or placenta during your pregnancy, or if you have a history preterm labor, ask your doctor if sex is OK.
  • Step 3: Recognize the symptoms of preterm labor: contractions that occur more than 6 times per hour; a low, dull backache; pelvic pressure or pain; diarrhea; vaginal bleeding; and a watery vaginal discharge. Prompt medical attention can help prevent you from giving birth prematurely.
  • Step 4: Have regular prenatal check-ups and follow your obstetrician's instructions regarding diet, exercise, and prenatal vitamins. A doctor's care is especially important if you have a chronic condition like diabetes or hypertension, which increases the chances of preterm birth.
  • Step 5: If you smoke, quit; smoking can cause a woman to give birth prematurely. Nonsmokers should also avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Step 6: Brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss daily, and see your dentist twice a year for a check-up and cleaning. Gum disease may be linked to preterm labor and birth.
  • Step 7: Be at a healthy weight before you get pregnant. Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy puts you at greater risk for giving birth prematurely.

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