While complex, the reasons are well-known and include risk factors relating to Lifestyle, Infection, Nutrition and Contraception (LINC).
Often resulting from gender inequality and oppressive social norms, these risk factors include excessive workload during pregnancy, gender-based violence, early marriage, prior preterm birth, pre-gestational diabetes, smoking, and open defecation. Identifying and managing these pre-existing conditions can significantly reduce the risk of preterm birth.
Infections during pregnancy such as syphilis, HIV, malaria, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary tract infections are key risk factors. Prevention, timely diagnosis, and treatment during prenatal care can contribute to reduction of preterm birth.
Strongly linked to preterm birth, malnutrition leads to iron deficiency, anemia, and underweight mothers even before pregnancy. Promoting healthier diets and practices among women and adolescent girls, and micronutrient supplementation during pregnancy, can help break the cycle of poor nutrition and contribute to the prevention of preterm birth.
Lack of Contraception
The use of contraception helps women avoid risk factors such as teenage pregnancy, gaps between pregnancies of less than 6 months, and advanced maternal age. Improving availability, awareness, and access to contraception for women and men, as well as promoting healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, can significantly reduce preterm birth.