Premature labour, what can I expect?


What happens during premature labour, what can I expect?

I wanted to write a few blog posts on premature labour and what to expect in NICU, some of my clients and regular readers of my blog are aware that both my children were born early, Josh my eldest at 34 weeks and Chloe was born at 29 weeks. As you can Imagine I was very unprepared for the birth of both of my children, especially Chloe.

Premature labour is when labour begins before your 37 week of pregnancy.

Did you know? Around eight in 100 babies in the UK are born premature i.e. before 37 weeks. If labour begins between 22 and 28 weeks of pregnancy it is known as very premature labour. This is not nearly as common and fewer babies arrive this early.

What might cause premature labour? Often the cause of premature labour remains unknown; however there are factors that are thought to increase the risk. Including:
Premature breaking of the waters
A previous premature Birth A previous late miscarriage (after 14weeks),
Being Overweight,
Taking drugs
IVF treatment
An abnormally shaped womb
If you’re expecting more than one baby

What might happen if I have gone into labour before 37 weeks?

You will need to phone your midwife or maternity unit so that they confirm labour has begun and baby can be checked. If labour is suspected you will be advised to go to or stay in hospital where you may be offered: A course of steroid injections over the next 24-48 hours, these injections are important to help with the growth of your baby’s lungs. From my experience they are quite painful though so be prepared. Antibiotics to help prevent infection if your waters have already broken. The chance to talk to or meet the neonatal team and perhaps pre-visit the NICU if there is time or its expected that you will have an early labour, this is esp. the case if you’re expecting multiples.

You may also be offered as I was a drip to help delay labour; this may or may not be effective and may only prevent labour long enough for you to receive the second steroid injection or for you to be transferred to a hospital with specialist care.

What will happen to my baby?

Babies born prematurely often have increased risk of many health problems, especially with breathing, feeding and infections. The earlier your baby is born the more likely there are to have problems but this varies of course and each baby is different as low birth weight babies are also susceptible to problems.

When your baby is born they may be whisked away from you to a neonatal unit, if this happens you will be encouraged to see your baby as soon as possible after birth and encouraged help and support to express milk for your baby.

Helpful Resources:
Bliss is the UK charity working to provide the best possible care and support for all premature and sick babies and their families.
Southmead NICU Facebook Group
A lovely supportive group run by Southmead hospital volunteers, there are nurses, midwives and a wealth of mums with NCIU experiences or who are currently going through their NICU journey.
Ronald McDonald Houses
The Ronald McDonald Houses act as a home away from home for families so they can stay together near their hospitalized child. Families either stay at no cost or are asked to make a donation.

I have not written this blog to scare anyone. I just wanted to make the experience a little less scary by informing you about what can happen. The whole experience is one that never leaves you and as I am writing this remembering my own birth experiences I am feeling very emotional and my babies are now almost 10 and 6. I will also write a follow up on this blog about having a baby in NICU and what it all means. So to stay up to date with my future blog post please do sign up to receive them direct to your mailbox.

We would also love to hear about your premature labour experiences and stories below in comments if you are kind enough to share.

Fiona X



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