Premature labour happens before the 37th week of pregnancy.
You must call the Maternity Unit immediately if you're less than 37 weeks and you have:
- regular contractions or tightenings
- period-type pains
- a gush or trickle of fluid from your vagina
- backache that is not usual to you
You'll be asked to visit the Maternity Unit where a midwife will examine you to check whether you're in labour.
These examinations may include:
- a vaginal examination
- blood test
- urine test
- cardiotocography to record contractions and the baby's heartbeat
Premature labour and birth on the NHS website
Babies born before 37 weeks
If your baby is born before 37 weeks your baby will be admitted to our Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) where our specially trained nurses will take care of your baby using specialist facilities.
Babies can be admitted to the Special Care Baby Unit for a number of reasons, including when they:
- are born early – 1 baby in 13 is born early, and babies born before 34 weeks may need extra help with breathing, feeding and keeping warm
- are very small and have a low birth weight
- have an infection
- have a mother who has diabetes
- have jaundice
- had a very difficult birth
- are waiting for, or recovering from, complex surgery
Touching, holding and feeding your baby
Once your baby is in a stable condition you'll be able to touch them and hold them. Babies who are really small are nursed in an incubator to keep them warm. If your baby is in an incubator our nurses will help you to take them out and have skin to skin contact.
Your baby may need to be fed using a feeding tube. You can express your breast milk so it can be given to your baby through the feeding tube. If your baby isn't ready for breast milk, the milk can be frozen and given to them later.
Special care: ill or premature babies on the NHS website