Reviewed July 2014, next review July 2017

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Giving birth to your premature baby

Giving birth is one of the most life-changing experiences you'll ever have, but it doesn't always go as planned, especially when your baby is premature.

If you have advance warning that your baby is coming early, you may have time to prepare for the birth and think about your birth plan and pain relief options. On the following pages, you can read about what happens when your baby is born early, from when to phone the hospital to how your little one will look and how you may feel.

It's important to be aware of the possible signs and symptoms of preterm labour as you may need to act quickly if you are in early labour in order to make sure your baby's birth is as smooth as possible. If you are in premature labour then your healthcare team may decide to delay the birth as it may be safer for you and your baby. Preterm labour is often slightly different to full-term labour - it may start by itself or could be induced if it seems a safer option. It is also common that premature labour is much faster and is over much more quickly. In some cases it may be decided that a caesarean is the safest option. In order to make premature labour as comfortable as possible for you there are numerous pain relief options which vary depending on your situation. 

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Feedback on health information

'I was admitted to the antenatal ward and had a scan and tests, and it all kicked off. I was 26+6. The baby was very, very small and had stopped growing at 24 weeks. The doctor said the baby would have to be delivered the following day.'



Waters breaking early does not always mean that labour is imminent. If the leak is slow and you take antibiotics, it is possible to go on to have a full-term pregnancy. Read more about waters breaking early (or PPROM) here.