If a mother in Ohio gives birth prior to week 37 of her pregnancy, her baby is premature. Premature birth puts a baby at risk of long-term complications, like cerebral palsy and retinopathy of prematurity. The earlier the birth occurs, the greater the chance of complications. Therefore, you may wonder what causes premature birth and what, if anything, you can do to prevent it.

According to the Mayo Clinic, anyone has the potential to give birth prematurely, and the cause is not always known. There are a number of factors that place you at a greater risk, but the presence of these risk factors is not a guarantee that preterm birth will occur. Furthermore, even women who have no discernible risk factors may give birth prematurely.

Some risk factors relate to lifestyle, whether directly or indirectly. Drug use, smoking or body weight that is more or less than ideal all increase your chances of prematurity. Other risk factors are due to circumstances beyond your control, such as chronic medical conditions, infections or abnormalities of the reproductive tract. If your pregnancy involves multiples, you are at greater risk for preterm birth. Your gynecologic history of therapeutic abortion, miscarriage or previous premature birth can also play a part.

In some circumstances, a doctor can identify a condition that could put you at risk for premature birth early on and recommend steps to prevent it. If your doctor detects abnormalities of the birth canal, you may undergo a cervical cerclage, which is a surgical procedure that involves using strong sutures to stitch the cervix closed. The sutures remain in place until it is time to give birth, at which point your doctor removes them. If you have a history of past preterm birth, your doctor may give you hormone supplements of progesterone to reduce your risk.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.