fFN (Fetal Fibronectin) Test

Who Is At Risk for Preterm Birth?

Many pregnant women aren't aware of their risks for having a premature baby. Understanding your risks can help you play an active role in your pregnancy and your baby's health. Then, together, you and your doctor or nurse-midwife can work out a plan. Even if you don't have any of these risk factors, you should contact your doctor or nurse-midwife if you show any of the symptoms of preterm labor, such as regular contractions that don't stop, or constant, dull back pain.

Learn more about medical risk factors.

Learn more about lifestyle and environmental risk factors.

Medical risks1

Certain medical conditions during pregnancy may increase the likelihood that a woman will have preterm labor. These conditions include:

  • Previous preterm birth — women who've already delivered a baby early (before 37 weeks) in a previous pregnancy. Also, women who've experienced symptoms of preterm labor in a previous pregnancy are at an increased risk.
  • Twins or triplets — women who are carrying twins, triplets, or more at an increased risk. the added weight and pressure of increased babies can lead to an early delivery.
  • Cervical or uterine abnormalities —cervical or uterine abnormalities can be a result of surgery or detected by a doctor or nurse midwife. These abnormalities can limit space for the baby to grow, interfere with blood supply to the baby, or weaken the cervix.
  • Previous miscarriage(s) — a miscarriage is a pregnancy loss before 20 weeks. There are multiple reasons for a woman to experience a miscarriage; one reason is a cervical or uterine abnormality.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF) — the underlying medical conditions that made IVF necessary or being pregnant with twins or triplets as a result of IVF may put women at an increased risk for preterm birth.

Other medical conditions that may increase the likelihood of preterm labor:

  • Urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, sexually transmitted infections
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Clotting disorders (thrombophilia)
  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Certain birth defects in the baby
  • Being underweight before pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Short time period between pregnancies (less than 6-9 months between birth and the beginning of the next pregnancy)

If you have any of these three risk factors, it's especially important for you to know the symptoms of preterm labor — and what to do if they occur.

Lifestyle and environmental risks1

Certain lifestyle factors may put a woman at greater risk for preterm labor. These factors include:

  • Late or no prenatal care
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Using illegal drugs
  • Exposure to the medication DES
  • Domestic violence, including physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Lack of social support
  • Stress
  • Long working hours with long periods of standing

Researchers have also identified other risk factors. For instance, African-American women, women younger than 17 or older than 35, and poor women are at greater risk than other women. Experts do not fully understand why and how these factors increase a woman's risk for preterm labor or birth.

There is a test to determine your risk

If you are pregnant, fetal fibronectin testing can help predict your risk for preterm delivery. It is a simple, non-invasive test (much like a Pap test) that can be given in your doctor's office.


  • 1. www.marchofdimes.com


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