An estimated one in 10 babies enter the world too early. Babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy (a preterm birth) may have immediate and lifelong health problems.

The Penn Medicine Prematurity Prevention Program provides expert care for women at risk for preterm births.

Who Is at Risk for Preterm Birth?

Certain issues make your pregnancy high-risk and increase the chances of a premature birth:

  • History of spontaneous (unexplained) preterm birth
  • Multiple babies (twins or more)
  • Previous cervical procedure
  • Prior second-trimester pregnancy loss
  • Uterine abnormalities, such as a divided (septated) uterus

Penn Medicine Prematurity Prevention Program: Why Choose Us?

Our prematurity prevention care team works together to protect your unborn baby’s health. Our services include:

  • Collaborative care: We partner with your OB-GYN to provide support as needed. After your consultation with us (and any necessary treatment), you continue to see your OB-GYN for maternity care.
  • Preconception and prenatal counseling: We meet with high-risk families before and during pregnancy. Together, we develop a care plan to lower the chances of a premature birth.
  • Dedicated programs: Our innovative programs for women with diabetes and heart disease help prevent preterm labor.
  • Emergency care: Our perinatal evaluation centers provide 24/7 emergency care. If you have spotting or other problems, we quickly assess the situation. If needed, we can promptly admit you to the hospital.
  • Supportive care: We offer behavioral health counseling for families affected by premature births and pregnancy loss.
  • Telehealth appointments: In-person appointments take place at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). Established patients may choose to attend telehealth appointments. You do not have to be a patient of a Penn OB-GYN to participate in this program. Check with your health insurer about coverage.

Preventing Preterm Births

Approximately 15 percent of women in Pennsylvania give birth too soon. More than half of these preterm births occur spontaneously — there’s no known reason. Specialists at Penn are active in research to identify potential causes of preterm births and find ways to prevent them. We use the latest findings to lower the risk of preterm births.

For instance, we identify and treat women who have short cervixes. Research shows that a cervix that is too short increases the risk of a spontaneous preterm birth. Our doctors are nationally recognized for their expertise in managing this issue.

Any woman can have a short cervix. To catch this problem early, Penn OB-GYNs perform cervical length screenings on all of our pregnant patients. Using transvaginal ultrasound technology, we measure cervical length during the 20th week of pregnancy. If you had a prior spontaneous preterm birth, this screening takes place around the 16th week of pregnancy.

If the screening indicates a short cervix, we offer methods that may help you carry your baby full-term. These methods include:

  • Vaginal progesterone suppositories: This nightly treatment may reduce premature births, particularly in women with a short cervix.
  • Cervical cerclage: Based on prior medical history, some women may benefit from a cervical cerclage. This procedure to close the cervix takes place between the 12th and 14th weeks of pregnancy. It may prevent the cervix from opening too soon and causing preterm birth.

Advanced Care for Premature Babies

Sometimes, babies still come too early. Premature babies receive high-level medical care at our level three neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). Neonatologists from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) provide care in our NICUs.

Request an Appointment

To request an appointment, please call 800-789-7366 or complete our online form.

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Prematurity Prevention Program Team

Penn high-risk pregnancy specialists work to keep at-risk mothers and their babies safe and healthy.

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