World Prematurity Day: the health facts on premature births

Why do premature births happen?


In many cases, we do not know exactly why women go into labour too soon. Experts are aware of factors that may increase the risk including genetic problems, infection or problems with the placenta. However it is an area which needs more research.

The effects of prematurity

Babies born just a few weeks early usually face an extremely positive future, but do need extra care in the short term. Extremely preterm babies however face a much more turbulent journey.

The early weeks and months of life for the extremely premature baby take place in the neonatal intensive care unit. This places a huge strain on the parents, siblings and other family members. The baby may need ventilating (help to breath), lines inserted and to be fed through a tube into their tummy or into a vein.

The very premature may also face life-threatening infections, or bowel problems ( necrotising enterocolitis) that may need surgery.

Eye problems (retinopathy of prematurity) and hearing problems are also very common. Many parents of very newborn babies describe their child's first few weeks as an emotional rollercoaster.

However, thankfully, improvements in neonatal intensive care are being made all the time, and more and more children are surviving with a good quality of life and a positive future.