Premature birth - information and support

A 'premature' or 'preterm' baby is one that is born before 37 weeks. If your baby is born early - also called 'premature' or 'preterm' - they may need special care as they may not be fully developed.

What is premature birth?

The definition of a 'premature' or 'preterm' baby is one that is born before 37 weeks . There are different categories levels of prematurity and these carry their own risks:

  • Extremely preterm ( less than 28 weeks)
  • very preterm (28 to 32 weeks)
  • moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks).

Often the cause of premature birth is unknown but there are complications that increase the risk.

Generally, the earlier a baby is born the higher the risk is of health problems

There are different levels of prematurity, and generally the risk increases the earlier the birth is - babies at highest risk are those born before week 26.

We have extensive information on every aspect of prematurity for parents of premature babies, to help you navigate a time that can be overwhelming.

Find out premature birth statistics here.

More information on prematurity


  1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Preterm birth and labour, guidance in development final scope, NICE, 2013. Also available at: (accessed 15 April 2014)
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Last reviewed on April 1st, 2014. Next review date April 1st, 2017.


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