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Causes of premature labour

The reasons for premature labour are often unknown. It usually starts by itself.

There's a greater risk of premature labour if you've previously had:

  • a premature labour
  • a late miscarriage
  • previous treatment to remove part of your cervix

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP and book your hospital visit early if

you've previously had:

  • a late miscarriage (between 12 to 23 weeks)
  • treatments on your cervix

Your obstetrician will decide if you're at risk of premature labour. They will tell you if you would benefit from treatment. Sometimes premature birth is unavoidable.

Sometimes a premature birth may be planned because of concerns about the health of you or your baby. If your doctors decide that your baby needs to be born early, your labour will be induced or your baby will be born by caesarean (C-section).

Reducing the risk of premature labour

There are some things you can do to try and reduce the risk of giving birth early.


  • quit smoking and ask others not to smoke around you

  • talk to your GP or public health nurse about any medication you are on

  • prepare and store food safely

  • avoid stress and take time to rest daily


Treatments to prevent premature birth

If you're at risk of premature labour, you may be offered some treatments to prevent your cervix (the neck of your womb) from opening too early. This can lead to preterm labour and premature births.

These treatments depend on your circumstances but can include:

  • a stitch placed around your cervix to prevent it from opening too early
  • hormone treatment with progesterone - this is usually a small tablet which you insert into the vagina

Page last reviewed: 4 December 2021
Next review due: 4 December 2024

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.