Talking to Your Doctor About Preterm Labor and Delivery

Talk openly and often with your healthcare provider. It will help you make the best choices for your care.

Tips for Getting Information

Here are some tips that will help you talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask. They may also be able to provide more details to the doctor.
  • Write down your questions so you do not forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get. Make sure you grasp what you are hearing. Ask for help, if needed.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions. Ask where you can learn more. You have a right to know.

Questions to Ask

About Your Risk of Preterm Labor

  • Based on my health history and lifestyle, am I at risk?
  • Is there anything about this pregnancy that puts me at risk?
  • Am I currently taking any medicine that puts me at risk?
  • How do I lower my risk?
  • If I go into preterm labor, how can I lower the risk of preterm delivery?
  • Should I be screened?
  • If I have preterm labor in this pregnancy, will I have it in my next one?

About the Symptoms of Preterm Labor

  • What does a contraction feel like?
  • How can I tell the difference between a contraction and a normal ache or cramp?
  • What should I do if I feel preterm contractions?

About Treatment Options

  • How is preterm labor treated?
  • Are there medicines that can treat preterm labor?
    • What are the benefits and side effects?
    • How will these medicines affect my baby?
    • Will these medicines cause problems with the other medicines, over-the-counter products, or dietary or herbal supplements that I take?
  • Do I need to be on bed rest?
    • How much do I need to limit activity?
  • Would a cervical cerclage help me?
    • How effective is it?
    • What are the side effects?

About Your Baby’s Health

  • What are the risks to my baby if I go into preterm labor?
  • What are the risks to my baby if I deliver too early?
  • How do the risks change with each week of pregnancy?
  • Will my baby need to stay in the hospital after birth?
  • What are the long-term health risks for my baby?

About Reducing Your Risk

  • Should I be screened for any health problems?
  • What is a healthy diet during pregnancy?
  • Should I avoid having sex?


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Practice Bulletins—Obstetrics. Practice Bulletin No. 171: Management of Preterm Labor. Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Oct;128(4):e155-64, reaffirmed 2018.
Getting the most out of your doctor appointment. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at:
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Accessed August 4, 2020.
Premature labor. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at:
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Accessed August 3, 2020.
Preterm labor and birth. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at: Accessed August 3, 2020.
Preterm labor and birth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: Accessed August 3, 2020.
Preterm labor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed August 3, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 2/26/2021

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