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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  • The letters FAQ written on black chalkboard.

    Giving birth to your premature baby FAQs

    Frequently asked questions about premature labour and birth

  • Mother's hand touching premature baby in incubator.

    In utero transfer to a neonatal unit

    Moving you both to a specialist neonatal unit may be the safest option if your baby is likely to be born very prematurely. This is known as 'in utero transfer' as they are effectively making sure your baby is in the best place for her care while she is still in your womb.

  • Pregnant woman holding her back.

    Am I in early labour?

    In many cases the symptoms of early labour turn out to be something else, so you may not be in labour. Even if you feel convinced that your baby is on his way, the healthcare team will still want to carry out a number of checks to be certain that you are in labour.

Last reviewed on July 1st, 2014. Next review date July 1st, 2016.

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