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.


  • By Midwife @Tommys on 27 Jan 2017 - 09:41

    The safest would be to avoid foreplay especially if anything was to be inserted into the vagina. Whilst the evidence is weak, orgasms and foreplay may possibly bring on contractions and released oxytocin (hormone) which can help to bring on labour. There are no definites I am afraid but the safest option is to avoid all forms of sex.

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 25 Jan 2017 - 16:39

    I am currently 33 weeks pregnant and my waters broke at 30 weeks I have been advised to not have intercourse due to infection, does this include forplay? Sorry to ask personal question but I'm finding it so hard but at the same
    Time don't want to start contracting or get an infection

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