What may happen if your baby is born this week
This information may be difficult to read. If you have any questions about your pregnancy or risk of premature birth please talk to your doctor or midwife.
You can also call the Tommy’s midwives on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email us at [email protected]
Babies born before 28 weeks are described as being extremely preterm. Research shows that for babies born before 27 weeks of gestation it is best, whenever possible, to be born in a specialist maternity unit with a specialist Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. If you are in labour and aren’t at a hospital with these facilities, you may be taken to one as soon as possible. This is known as in utero transfer.
Sadly, most babies born at this gestation will not survive labour and birth. At 23 weeks, this is known as a late miscarriage.
Approximately 6 in 10 babies don’t survive if they are born now, even if they are born alive and receive treatment to try and save their life. Of those who do survive, 1 in 4 babies born at this time will have a severe disability, such as cerebral palsy.
Up to 1 in 4 of children without a severe disability may have a milder disability, such as learning difficulties, behavioural problems or mild cerebral palsy.
When talking about babies who have been born extremely prematurely, the term severe disability can include:
- not being able to walk or even get around independently (this includes conditions such as severe cerebral palsy)
- being unable to talk, or see or hear properly
- difficulties with swallowing or feeding safely
- having multiple health problems with frequent visits to hospital
- needing to attend separate school for children with special educational needs
- being unable to care for themselves or live independently as they grow up.
What does this mean for your premature baby?
Every baby is different and it is important to talk with your doctors and midwife. They will give you specific information about your own and your baby’s condition. The chances of your baby’s survival and long-term health will depend on several other factors, not just the week they were born. How much your baby weighs, their gender, and how well you and your baby are when you give birth will all have an impact.
Your doctors will talk to you about what your options are and help you make decisions about what’s best for you and your baby.
You and your healthcare team may decide that it will be best to provide palliative care to your baby, either because there is an extremely high risk that your baby will not survive or they are likely to suffer from life-long disability, even with the very best treatment. Palliative care means providing treatments that will make them as comfortable as possible until they pass away.
You and your healthcare team may decide that starting neonatal intensive care would be best for your baby. Babies born at this time have the highest risk of breathing problems because their lungs have not matured and will need help to breathe.
The medical team will usually put a breathing tube passed through their mouth or nose and into their lungs (known as intubation), which is connected to a machine called a ventilator. This machine does most or all of the breathing for the baby. Your baby will also be given some medicine into their lungs (surfactant) to help with their breathing. Find out more about breathing support for premature babies.
Babies born now will not be able to feed independently and are at risk of complications such as hypothermia (when their temperature is low), heart and blood flow problems, low blood pressure, high or low blood sugar and infections. The medical team will monitor all these things and provide treatment when necessary.