If you have had a preterm birth, you're at risk for delivering early again with your next pregnancy. In general, the earlier you delivered a preterm baby, the greater your future risk. Mothers who have had small-for-gestational age babies, or an infant that died shortly after birth, are also at risk for future preterm births.

Your doctor may have discussed these risks with you around the time of your preterm birth, but you may have been too overwhelmed to take in all the information. If you're considering getting pregnant again, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your risks.

There are certain guidelines you can follow to increase your chances for a longer and more successful pregnancy. The following guidelines are appropriate for any woman considering pregnancy, but are especially important if you have delivered a preterm infant:

  • Don't smoke.
  • Avoid recreational drugs.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Follow an exercise program, but avoid strenuous physical activity.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Minimize alcohol consumption.
  • Achieve a healthy body weight.
  • Make sure any medical problems -- such as diabetes, thyroid disease, or lupus -- are under excellent control.

If you do get pregnant again, be sure to see your doctor frequently-especially during the last half of your pregnancy.