Having a baby between the 20th and 37th week is considered
premature. Most premature births are deliberate, planned
attempts by the obstetrician due to some health complication.
However a small percentage of pregnancies result in
unplanned premature labor. Possible factors responsible
for this are:
• Over-distended uterus because there is more
than one baby in the uterus or too much amniotic fluid
• Incompetent cervix (your cervix is not tightly
• Early rupture of the membranes of the amniotic
sac (water breaking)
• UTI in the mother
• Overwork, stress and some maternal concerns
like anemia or malnutrition
With special care preterm babies as young as 24 weeks
can survive. By week 30, chances of survival increases
by 90% and more than 80% will be fine with some special
What you can do..
• If your membranes have ruptured go to the
hospital right away.
• You will be monitored closely to watch for
signs of infection such as fever; in case of an infection
you will be given
• Labor usually starts after the rupture but
if you don't go into spontaneous labor it won't usually
be induced until after 37 weeks unless there is an
• Once your membranes have ruptured and labor
commences, the labor will go on as normal.
• Generally premature labor tends to be shorter
and easier than full-term because baby's head is smaller
• Usually an episiotomy is given; forceps may
• Cesarean delivery is very likely, especially
if fetus is in distress.
What your hospital will
• If labor starts as early as between week 24
and week 34, labor will be delayed with the aid of
steroids. The aim is to allow time to mature the baby's
lungs; preterm babies have higher chances of developing
respiratory distress syndrome because of the shorter
• In a hospital environment, evidence of infection
can be detected at the earliest and baby's condition
can be monitored; once born the premature baby can
be transferred to the intensive care immediately.
• If your hospital doesn't have neonatal facility,
you may need to be moved to a hospital which has one.
• If you are over-anxious, a mild sedative will
be given to help you calm down
Some friendly pointers
if you are at risk
1. Make your pregnancy stress-free: don't attempt
anything new. Don't make elaborate plans. Pamper yourself.
Overindulgence doesn't equal to being selfish; you
are just taking care of you and your baby.
2. Any changes you go through, inform your doctor
3. Keep emergency numbers and names in easy-to-see
places; carry them in your handbag, stick them on
fridge or place them near the phone.
4. Don't worry about what others may think about your
excessive concerns i.e. the nurse, your doctor.
5. Keep your information-kitty containing books, pamphlets,
your mother's notes etc in an accessible place. Store
them such that you can retrieve them easily when you
wish to read up on a peculiar side effect or funny
6. Share your fears with your partner or a friend;
don't bottle up.
7. Skip strenuous workouts
8. Don't worry about getting all your chores done
in one day; spread them over the days
9. If working, get an early leave of absence form
your job; get a note from your doctor as supporting
reactions at work bother you
10. Stop lifting heavy objects and bags
11. Spend some time putting your feet up and sit still
as often and as long as you can
12. Discuss sex issues with your doctor at your routine
visits because your doctor may want you to abstain
from intercourse until after the baby is born. High
risk mums will be instructed to stay off sex after
the fifth month.
Common premie Characteristics
• These babies differ from full term babies
in a number of ways but these are usually temporary
• Premies weigh less
• They are small, red, wrinkly and frail with
large heads and hands
• Blood vessels can easily be seen under the
pale skin since there isn't much fat
• There is a layer of fine hair on the body
• Their motor functions like breathing and feeding
are less efficient
• They tend to be irritable in the early days
though this can be dealt with soothing care, soft
noises and love