Thinking about pregnancy after premature birth

Even if you do everything right, you can still have a baby born too early. You know this is true if you've already had a premature baby—a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

You may be thinking about getting pregnant again, and you want your full 9 months this time. Just because you've already had a premature baby, it doesn't mean your next baby will be born early.

Your health care provider may not know why your baby was born early. Sometimes labor starts early without any warning. Other times providers have to deliver a baby early if a mother's health or the baby's health is in danger.

There may be things you and your health care provider can do to help you stay pregnant longer. It's best to talk to your provider about these things before you get pregnant again.

Do you need to go to a special provider for care when you get pregnant again?

When you’re ready to get pregnant again, talk to your provider about seeing a specialist who is trained to care for women who are likely to have pregnancy complications, including premature birth. These doctors are sometimes called maternal-fetal medicine specialists. Your provider can help you find a specialist.

What can you do to reduce your chances of giving birth early again?

No one knows for sure what causes a woman to have a premature baby. But there are some risk factors that make a woman more likely to have her baby too early. A risk factor is a known reason why something could go wrong. Some risk factors are things you can’t change, such as already having had a baby born too early. But other risk factors are things you can do something about, such as quitting smoking.

Here are some risk factors that you do can something about. Talk to your health care provider about these risk factors. Learn more about what you can do to help you stay pregnant longer next time.

Risk factor: Getting pregnant too soon after having a baby
What you can do: Before getting pregnant again, wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. This gives your body time to recover. If you're sexually active, and not ready to get pregnant right away, use birth control. See your health care provider before you get pregnant and tell him you’re trying to get pregnant again.

Risk factor: Having certain health conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure 
What you can do: See your provider before you get pregnant again. Ask about treatments for your health conditions.

Risk factor: Having an infection during pregnancy
What you can do: Wash your hands well with soap and water after using the bathroom or blowing your nose. Call your provider if you feel burning when you go to the bathroom. Once you're pregnant, use a condom so you don't get a sexually transmitted infection, like HIV or herpes.

Risk factor: Being very overweight or not weighing enough
What you can do: Talk to your provider about getting to a healthy weight. Eat healthy foods and exercise or do something active every day. When you do get pregnant, talk to your provider about your weight gain during pregnancy.

Risk factor: Smoking, drinking alcohol or using street drugs
What you can do: Quit. Stay away from situations or places, like parties or bars, where you may smoke, drink alcohol or take street drugs. Ask your provider about programs that can help you quit.

What can you do about preterm labor?

Learn the signs of preterm labor and what to do if they happen to you. Preterm labor is labor that begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Where can I talk to other women like me who are thinking about pregnancy after having a premature baby?

Visit the March of Dimes online community Share Your Story.

More information

See also: Progesterone treatment to help prevent premature birth, Signs of preterm labor, Treatments for preterm labor 

Last reviewed: January, 2013