Premature Birth: What happens if you go into labour early?


Finding out you are expecting a baby is an incredibly exciting time; discovering the sex of your baby, picking out names and packing your hospital bag are all activities that most parents relish. However, pregnancy can also be a worrying time for many soon-to-be parents – you may worry about the health of your baby or have concerns about the labour. Whilst most births are complication free, occasionally things do go wrong. One common complication is premature labour and birth.

One in every 13 babies are born prematurely (that is before 37 weeks). Signs that you are going into premature labour are the same as when you go into labour full-term; contractions, sudden breaking of water and loss of the mucus plug. Whilst any woman can go into early labour certain factors can make this more likely. If you fall into any of the below categories then your doctor should be monitoring you closely during your pregnancy:

  • Carrying multiples
  • Experienced premature births in the past
  • Abnormal cervix
  • Complications with the uterus, including infection
  • Other gynaecological infections
  • Complications of pregnancy including gestational diabetes or excess in amniotic fluid
  • Placental abruption
  • STD
  • Kidney disease
  • Disorders of the blood
  • A history of multiple abortions
  • A rapid succession of back to back pregnancies
  • Being obese or underweight
If you do go into premature labour you will be admitted straight to a hospital with a neonatal unit. At this time, doctors may be able to stop contractions temporarily using the drug tocolytics. This allows them time to give you steroid injections which helps reduce the possibility of complications for your baby after they are born (particularly breathing problems and bleeding). You may also be treated with any of these:
  • If your waters have broken you may be given a course of antibiotics to reduce the risk of an infection in your womb
  • Treatment with magnesium sulphate (if you are less than 30 weeks pregnant and likely to give birth in the next 24 hours). This reduces the chance of complications for your baby, particularly cerebral palsy.
Premature babies are at risk of a number of complications including; developmental delays, cerebral palsy, hearing or vision problems, digestive problems, respiratory problems and jaundice. Most of the time these medical issues cannot be avoided, and your medical team have taken every action possible. However, very occasionally these complications can occur due to medical negligence. If that is the case, then you may be entitled to compensation. This can help with the long term costs that may arise from the care required for your child and associated costs of adapting your home and lifestyle. Specialists like First4SeriousInjury can advise of whether you have a claim and offer you help and support through the compensation process.

My own personal experience with a premature birth was probably a more positive and lucky one. I didn't go into labour but instead became ill and required an emergency Caesarean. As a first time mother who was very afraid, I just went along with whatever the doctors and midwives told me. I didn't do enough research and didn't know that I could go against their advice (not that I would have at that time) if I wished to. I had the aforementioned steroid injections and magnesium sulphate drip and luckily everything worked out well in the end. The only real complaint that I had was that I didn't feel like I had enough breastfeeding support and looking back, it seemed like they found it easier to give my son a bottle whilst I was still poorly to get him discharged from the Special Care Baby Unit quicker.


Have you experienced a premature birth? Did you have any complaints or wish they'd done something differently? I'd love to know!

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