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Health Tip: What Are Risk Factors for Preterm Labor?

-- A typical pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. If labor begins before 37 weeks, it's known as preterm labor.

Being born too early can cause a host of complications, ranging from slow growth to problems with the eyes, ears, breathing and nervous system, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says.

The ACOG offers this list of common risk factors for preterm labor:

  • Having had preterm labor in this or a previous pregnancy.
  • Smoking cigarettes or using cocaine.
  • Having a multiple pregnancy (for example, carrying twins or triplets).
  • Having an abnormality of the cervix or uterus.
  • Having had an infection during pregnancy.
  • Bleeding during the second or third trimester.
  • Being underweight.
  • Having a mother or grandmother who took a medication called DES during pregnancy.
  • Having had insufficient medical care before and during pregnancy.

Posted: August 2009

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