Tommy's PregnancyHub

My premature baby's development in the womb-week 33

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 baby's development this week

Your baby’s brain and nervous system are now fully developed but still immature. This means that some of their reflexes and limb movements will be poorly co-ordinated.  

Your pregnancy symptoms

Your movements

You may be feeling quite uncomfortable now. Day-to-day tasks such as getting out of the car or putting on a pair of socks may be taking a lot of effort. Getting in and out of bed can get more difficult as your bump gets bigger. To take the strain off your back, try rolling onto your side moving your shoulders, hips and knees at the same time. Let your legs ease off the edge of the bed and put your feet on the floor. At the same time, use your arms to push yourself up to a sitting position. 

Doing this all as one movement can be more comfortable. Try the movement backwards to get back into bed. During the day you may find sitting on a birthing ball more comfortable than sitting on a chair. 

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 was born this week, they would be classed as moderate to late preterm. It’s unlikely that they will have any severe problems associated with being born prematurely.

They will still need specialist care in the neonatal baby unit. Common problems include hypoglycaemia (low blood sugars) and mild breathing problems. 

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.

Most babies will need support while they are learning to feed. 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). Some babies may also need support if they develop jaundice.

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

NHS Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Physiotherapy advice in pregnancy. (Last reviewed 20/03/2018 Next review due: 20/03/2021)

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