If the healthcare team considers you at high risk of going into labour very prematurely (especially if you are under 27 weeks), they may recommend that you go to a specialist unit before your baby is born.
This is known as in-utero transfer (in other words, transferring the baby while she is still in the uterus). It is often safer to transfer the baby while she is still protected inside you than after she is born. If you give birth in the specialist unit, then from the moment she is born she will have the right equipment and expertise waiting for her.
When it's safer to stay put
For some women, it's safer not to move. If you have an infection or severe pre-eclampsia, or if there are problems with your baby or with the placenta, then the team will need to deliver her as quickly as possible.
Similarly, if you are at high risk of giving birth on the way to the unit, or if your condition is unstable (for example, if you have severe hypertension), you will stay where you are. The team will then transfer the baby after she is born.
Before you are transferred, the team will need to make sure that there are enough staff members and beds available to ensure that you are cared for properly.
During the transfer you will be accompanied by a midwife but not a paediatrician; the logic is that if you are so likely to deliver that you need a paediatrician, then you shouldn't be transferred at all. If delivery seems imminent during the journey, you will be taken to the nearest hospital rather than to the specialist unit.
Do I have to go?
You have the right to refuse to be transferred before you deliver, even though this may pose risks to yourself or your baby. However, once your baby is born the hospital can overrule your wishes, and has the right to transfer her to the unit if this is in her best interests.
- BAPM (2008) Management of acute in-utero transfers: a framework for practice, London, British Association of Perinatal Medicine
Frequently asked questions about premature labour and birth
In many cases the symptoms of early labour turn out to be something else, so you may not be in labour.
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.
ℹLast reviewed on July 1st, 2017. Next review date July 1st, 2020.