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Premature labour and birth

Premature (or preterm) birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. If this happens, your baby may need specialist care.

Premature birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. 

Most of the time, premature births happen on their own and often doctors will not be able to find out why. But there are some things we do know increase the risk of premature labour

In some cases, pre-term labour or birth is planned because it's safer for the baby to be born sooner rather than later. This could be because of a health condition in the mother (such as pre-eclampsia) or in the baby (such as fetal growth restriction). If you are advised to give birth early, you may be offered an induction or caesarean section.

Some women will be told they are at risk of giving birth early. In these cases, they will have more care or treatment to try and reduce the chances of this happening. 

When a baby is born too soon, they may need special care in hospital because they are not quite ready for life outside the womb. 

If you have any concerns about premature labour or birth, you can talk to the Tommy's midwives on our pregnancy line. Call 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email [email protected].

There are also lots of other organisations that can offer information and support.

Find out more about premature birth.

Macdonald, Sue (2017) Mayes’ Midwifery. London, Elsevier Health Sciences UK

NICE (2015). Preterm labour and birth. National Institute for health and care excellence.

Review dates

Last reviewed: 23 August 2021
Next review: 23 August 2024