17th November: World Prematurity Awareness Day

A newborn inside an incubator

In light of World Prematurity Awareness Day, we have created a blog to highlight key information to recognise and promote prevention of pre-term labour and birth.

What is prematurity?

Prematurity is a term use for any baby born less than 37 weeks of gestation. Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm, and the number continues to rise. There are a number of risks associated with premature babies including vision, hearing and dental problems. 

Am I at risk of having baby too early (premature)?

If you have any of below you may have a higher risk of having a baby born too early:

  • Previous birth before 37 weeks
  • Previous late miscarriage
  • The ‘waters’ (amniotic sac) have broken before 37 weeks in a previous pregnancy
  • Previous surgery to the neck of the womb after an abnormal smear test
  • An unusually shaped womb (uterus)
  • Twin/triplets’ pregnancy

Your midwife may refer you to a premature clinic if you fit the criteria of the above risk factors.

What will happen when I visit a premature clinic?

  • You will speak with a midwife/ doctor who will take your past medical history and assess if you could be at risk of a premature birth.
  • You may be offered a trans-vaginal ultrasound scan of your cervix (neck of the womb), where an ultrasound probe is placed into the vagina.
  • If you are over 18 weeks pregnant, you may also be offered a vaginal swab test (fetal fibronectin) to help predict your risk of an early birth. Your midwife or doctor will inform you about the results and create a plan of care based on that result.

When to seek advice?

Sometimes there are signs that you may be going into labour, often the signs may not lead to preterm labour but it is important to let your midwife know so you can get advice.

Call your midwife or doctor if you’re less than 37 weeks pregnant and you have:

  • Period-like pains or cramps which come and go
  • A “show” – when the mucus plug that sealed the cervix during pregnancy comes away and out of the vagina
  • Fluid leaking from the vagina – this could be your waters breaking
  • Backache that is unusual for you
  • Bleeding from the vagina

If you think you may be in labour, do not wait for your next appointment, contact your midwife immediately.

What will happen if I am in premature labour?

The midwife or doctor may offer:

  • Medicine to try to slow down or stop your labour.
  • Medicine (corticosteroid injections) before 36 weeks- to attempt to help your baby’s lungs get ready for breathing if they’re born prematurely

Stopping or slowing down your labour isn’t always suitable and your midwife and doctor will discuss your options with you. They will assess your pregnancy condition based on:

  • How many weeks pregnant you are
  • If you have an infection or you’re bleeding
  • Neonatal care hospital facilities

If you would like to support those with premature babies, please visit Bliss to discover how you can help make a difference.

At Pregma, we believe in achieving the best possible pregnancy and birth for you possible. We have a fantastic team of doctors and midwives who can expertly guide you through your pregnancy. Please contact our team at… for more information.