Premature labour and birth

Premature labour is labour that happens before the 37th week of pregnancy. About 8 out of 100 babies will be born prematurely.

If you think your labour might be starting and you're less than 37 weeks pregnant, call your midwife or hospital straight away. They'll need to check you and your baby to find out whether you're in labour, and discuss your care choices with you.

They'll offer checks, tests and monitoring to find out whether:

  • your waters have broken
  • you're in labour
  • you have an infection

These may include a vaginal examination, blood test, urine test and cardiotocography to record contractions and the baby's heartbeat.

Planned premature labour

In some cases, pre-term labour is planned and induced 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. Your midwife and doctor will discuss with you the benefits and risks of continuing with the pregnancy versus your baby being born premature.

You can still make a birth plan, and discuss your wishes with your birth partner, midwife and doctor.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 26 Feb 2018