Lisa5201/E+/Getty Images
9 Top Theories About What Causes Premature Labor

by Lindsay E. Mack

When you're expecting, you probably have one predominant wish for the future: to deliver a healthy baby. Additionally, you probably want your baby to arrive right on schedule and not make an early debut. So knowing the top theories about what causes premature labor can only help you out as your pregnancy progresses.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a full-term pregnancy should take around 40 weeks, so preterm labor occurs if you have regular contractions that start to open your cervix any time prior to week 37 of your pregnancy. You want your baby to reach full term because an early birth may bring about health risks, and premature babies often require specialized care in the neonatal intensive care unit, as further explained by the Mayo Clinic. Naturally, you want your baby to develop in the womb as long as possible, but sometimes it seems like your little one has other plans.

In a perfect world, doctors would know exactly what caused preterm births and how to prevent them. In reality, however, many different factors may contribute to an early delivery, and the exact causes are still being studied, as explained by Healthline. With that in mind, it may be helpful to understand how everything from your stress level to the state of your teeth could have an effect on your baby's delivery time. Here are several top medical reasons why you may go into labor a little early.



Some lifestyle factors may increase your odds of delivering the baby early. For instance, women with high levels of stress may be at an increased risk for premature labor, as explained by the American Pregnancy Association. This factor almost seems cruel: if your stress level is already high, then you don't need another thing to worry about. If you're concerned about your stress levels, then consider having a chat with your doctor or counselor about ways to de-stress during your pregnancy.



This feels like yet another unfair factor. But as explained in the Daily Mail, women who suffer from depression during pregnancy appear to have a higher risk of premature birth. With all of the changes that pregnancy entails, it's important to work toward keeping your mental health in top shape, too. Both you and your little one may benefit.


Short Timespan Between Pregnancies

It's totally understandable if you want to have kids who are close in age to their siblings, but back-to-back pregnancies may come with some risks. As explained in What to Expect, waiting for a year to 18 months between pregnancies can help reduce your risk of preterm labor. Chances are, your kids will still be close enough in age to become lifelong BFFs.


Gum Disease

To double-check your chances of preterm labor, you may want to visit your dentist. According to a 2010 piece from the Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine, the gum infection periodontitis may increase the chances of premature labor. If it's been a hot minute since your last visit to the dentist, then a checkup may be a good call.


Physical Stress

Physical stress can also take its toll on you during pregnancy. As explained in WebMD, women with jobs that require heavy physical labor may increase their risks of early labor. Working with your doctor to determine an appropriate pregnancy workload may be a smart move.


Carrying Multiples

Not all risk factors are necessarily related to your lifestyle, and you can't control for all of them. For instance, women who are carrying twins or multiples may be at an increased risk of premature labor, as noted by WebMD. But that is just part of the package when multiples are concerned.



In addition, certain health concerns can also increase your odds of an early delivery. Infections such as bacterial vaginosis may also result in an early delivery, as noted in Baby Center. If you suspect you have an infection, then checking in with your physician may be a smart idea.


Maternal Age

Your age may also play a part in the potential for preterm birth. As noted in Up to Date, mothers who are younger than 18 to 20 years of age may be at an increased risk of preterm labor. Additionally, mothers who are aged 35 to 40 do not inherently have an increased chance of early labor, but they are more likely to have other conditions that may result in preterm birth, as further explained by Up to Date.


Previous Preterm Birth

Sometimes the recent past is the best predictor for your future. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, women who have had a previous preterm labor or birth can be at an increased risk of another early labor in later pregnancies. Hopefully, you and your medical team can work together to form a game plan so your current baby can hang in there a little longer.