Updated October 2013

Your premature baby's time in hospital

Your premature baby - surgery

You're bound to feel anxious if your premature baby needs surgery, but try to focus on the positive: the operation should help to speed her recovery.

Some surgical procedures can be done under local or regional anaesthetic, while others will require general anaesthetic. Most premature babies are able to tolerate surgery well, and tend to recover relatively quickly afterwards.

Giving consent for surgery

The surgeon will explain to you the risks of any operation, and you will be asked to give consent after weighing up the pros and cons.

Often you will feel there is only one option, but at times you may face difficult choices, especially if the medical team needs to perform high-risk surgery or give your baby medication that may have side effects.

Talking it through

The unit will give you details of its consent policy. The responsibility for taking difficult decisions about giving, withholding or withdrawing intensive care therapies lies with the consultant, but they will always seek your agreement before making such decisions.

Finding solutions

If you disagree with the medical team, it is important to raise this early on so that they can work with you to find a resolution.

Minor procedures or emergency situations

Because seeking consent involves clearly explaining each procedure and seeking a signature, the unit may not ask for your consent to carry out more minor procedures that carry very low risk. Similarly, in some cases the team may need to take an emergency decision when they are unable to contact you.

Pain relief for premature babies

Many premature babies have to experience many different interventions that may be uncomfortable or painful, so they need to be given pain relief. This can involve drug therapy and/or non-medical means such as:

  • wrapping
  • swaddling
  • milk feeds
  • sugar solution.

You may find it very distressing to think that your baby may be in pain. You can help by being vigilant – if you see anything that looks like it might be sore or chafing, or if your baby seems distressed in any way, mention it to one of the team.

Babies can become physically dependent on painkilling drugs, so the team may need to stop treatment very gradually, to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Read more about how to work out what your baby needs and how to respond to her.

In this section

Your baby's time in hospital:

You can also read about

The following organisations can give you more information about the topics covered in this section.



Rennie JM (2005) Roberton's Textbook of Neonatology, England, Churchill Livingstone


On this page

Giving consent

Talking it through

Minor procedures or emergency situations

Pain relief for premature babies

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