Tommy's PregnancyHub

My premature baby's development in the womb-week 32

If you have been told you are at risk of a premature birth, you may be feeling anxious. Here’s some information about your baby’s development this week.

This information is for women who have been told that they are at risk of a premature birth

If you are not at risk of having a premature baby, we have information for you in our pregnancy calendar - our week-by-week guide to the stages of pregnancy.

Your premature baby’s development this week 

Your baby’s lungs are now becoming mature enough for them to breathe on their own, although they may still need some help when they are born.  

Your pregnancy symptoms

Infections

Getting an infection in pregnancy is not likely to harm your baby. But it is important to be aware of the infections that can cause complications and do what you can to avoid them.
Infections are caused by either bacteria or viruses.

Bacterial infections, such as whooping cough, are usually treated with antibiotics. Viral infections, such as the common cold or chickenpox, can’t be treated with antibiotics, but there are ways to manage symptoms. 

There are some simple steps you can take to avoid getting an infection in pregnancy, including:

  • washing your hands regularly with soap and water
  • trying to avoid people who are unwell
  • having all the vaccinations you are offered in pregnancy
  • not changing or touching dirty cat litter or contaminated soil
  • making sure all your meals are properly cooked, especially meat
  • avoiding unpasteurised milk and foods made with it
  • contacting your GP, doctor or midwife straight away if you have any symptoms of an infection.

Find out more about infections in pregnancy.

Other symptoms

If you are at risk of giving birth early, it’s important to take care of yourself. There are also some things you can do to try and reduce the risk of giving birth early.

Tell your midwife or doctor if you have any symptoms that you are worried about. Do not worry if you've talked about it before and don't be concerned about whether you're wasting anyone's time. This is your pregnancy and it's important to trust your own instincts if you feel something isn't right.

You can also call the Tommy’s midwives on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email us at [email protected]

Symptoms of early labour

Call your midwife or hospital maternity unit straight away if you think you are in early labour. It may be a false alarm, but it’s best to get checked out. Find out more about the symptoms of early labour

Your mental health

If you have been told that you are at increased risk of giving birth early, it’s important to try and reduce stress and take care of your emotional health. Find out more about coping with the idea of a premature birth.

What may happen if your baby is born this week

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]

If your baby is born this week they would be classed as moderate to late preterm, rather than very preterm.   

It’s unlikely that they will have any severe problems associated with being born prematurely. But they will still need specialist care in the neonatal baby unit.

Babies are much less likely to need intubation (where a breathing tube is placed into the baby’s mouth or nose and into their lungs). They will still need help with their breathing. Instead, they will have small prongs put into their nostrils or have a mask put over their nose.

This is connected to a machine (called ‘CPAP’ or ‘high flow’) that provides air, with or without extra oxygen, with pressure to make the effort of breathing easier for them. 

Babies born now often find it difficult to maintain a normal temperature, so they will be placed in an incubator or on a heated mattress in a cot.

Some babies may start to show signs of wanting to feed/suck, but they will not be able to get all the milk they need without some extra help. They will need a thin tube passed through their nose or mouth into their tummy that milk can be given through. They may also need fluids (a ‘drip’) through a thin tube into a vein (intravenous or IV line).  

Your baby will also be tested and may be treated for infection. 

Your healthcare team will monitor your premature baby closely to make sure they receive the best possible care. 

Regan, Lesley (2019) Your pregnancy week by week, Penguin Random House, London

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

Bamat N et al. (2019) Positive end‐expiratory pressure for preterm infants requiring conventional mechanical ventilation for respiratory distress syndrome or bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2019; Issue 2. Art. No.: CD004500. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004500.pub3.

BMJ Best Practice (2021) Premature newborn care. https://bestpractice.bmj.com/topics/en-gb/671/pdf/671/Premature%20newborn%20care.pdf