Preventing Preterm Birth: Information for Patients


Are you at risk for preterm birth?

  • If you would like to download this video, please contact Kristin Zielinski @
  • This content was developed independently by ACOG District II, and made possible through unrestricted non-CME educational grant funding from Lumara Health


Most likely, your doctor counted 40 weeks from the time you became pregnant. That’s because babies born between 39 and 40 weeks of pregnancy have the best chance of being healthy. This is why it’s important to have a full term pregnancy. Full term means your baby is born between 39 and 40 weeks.

If you deliver your baby between 38 and 39 weeks, it is called Early Term. Babies born between 41 and 42 weeks are considered Late Term, and babies born after 42 weeks are Postterm.

A preterm birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. A preterm birth can be completely unexpected, and these babies are much more likely to become sick. In fact, the earlier a baby is born, the more likely it is that he or she will have health problems.

To print this list, click here.
You may want to bring this with you to your next doctor’s appointment.

  • Understand your risk factors
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol & non-prescribed or illegal drugs
  • Eat the right foods and vitamins
  • Talk to your doctor about a healthy exercise plan fit for you
  • Give the doctor your complete medical history

17OHPC is a hormone medicine that your doctor may prescribe. If you’ve had a preterm birth before and are now pregnant with one baby, you may be right for 17OHPC. It’s a once-a-week injection given by your healthcare provider. Injections start between 16-20 weeks and continue until the 37th week, or until you deliver – whichever happens first.

The doctor may also decide to do a cerclage. This is when a stitch is placed around your cervix.

Vaginal progesterone is another option that can prevent preterm birth. This is also a type of hormone medicine that a doctor or nurse will teach you how to place in your vagina.

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  1. March of Dimes. Born Too Small and Too Soon in New York. Available at:
  2. March of Dimes. Prematurity Campaign. Available at:
  3. March of Dimes. Preterm Labor. Available at:
  4. March of Dimes. Your premature baby. Available at: October 2013
  5. Engle WA, Tomashek KM, Wallman C. Late-preterm infants: a population at risk. Pediatrics. 2007;120:1390-1401.

The content herein was developed independently by ACOG District II, and made possible through unrestricted non-CME educational grant funding from Lumara Health.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
409 12th Street SW, Washington, DC  20024-2188 | Mailing Address: PO Box 70620, Washington, DC 20024-9998