Early-Term Birth Increases Risk of Preterm Birth In Subsequent Pregnancies

A new study led by researchers with the UCSF California Preterm Birth Initiative (PTBi-CA) found that women whose first child was born at 37 to 38 weeks – so-called “early-term” birth – are two to three times more likely to experience preterm birth, defined as birth at a gestational age less than 37 weeks, when giving birth to a second child. The identification of this new risk factor may be a boon to doctors, who are rarely able to predict preterm birth, which occurs in nearly one in 10 births and is the leading cause of infant mortality.

The heightened risk was present whether a woman spontaneously delivered early, or if the birth was induced due to another medical consideration.

The study, published July 11, 2016, in Obstetrics & Gynecology, is the first systematic look at how the gestational age in a first pregnancy predicts the second, analyzing data from more than 160,000 California women who gave birth between 2005 and 2011. It comes as the preterm birth rate has inched up for the first time in more than a decade. 

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