Baby > Your new baby > The first month > Premature arrivals > Reasons for a premature baby

Reasons for a premature baby

Advice on the reasons and risk factors for premature birth, why babies are sometimes born before their due date and their chances of survival
Babies born early need special care and monitoring to help them to gain weight and mature fully outside the womb. Babies born before 37 weeks are defined as premature, whilst those born between 24 and 28 weeks are 'extremely premature'. Before week 24, babies are significantly less developed, although a small proportion do survive, at 23 weeks there is a 17 per cent chance, rising to 39 per cent at 24 weeks and 50% at 25 weeks.

Advances in neonatal care mean the outlook is improving all the time. According to UK charity 'Bliss', about 80 per cent of extremely low birth weight babies, those under 1kg (2.2lb), now survive; 20 years ago, it was about 20 per cent.

There isn't always a clear reason for premature birth, but possible causes include a previous premature birth, diabetes, smoking or poor nutrition in pregnancy, twin or multiple pregnancy, and cervical incompetence (when the cervix dilates and opens too early). This can be treated with a stitch placed around the cervix muscle at 12-14 weeks to keep it closed, which is removed at week 36 or cut in the event of early labour.

The most common cause of premature labour, though, is premature rupture of the membranes (PROM). The trigger is often unknown, but possible factors include vaginal infection, excessive amniotic fluid, or carrying twins or multiples. If you think your membranes have ruptured, consult your doctor or midwife immediately. You may go into labour, be given antibiotics to prevent infection or delay birth, or be induced if there is infection or danger to the baby. Before labour, you may be given drugs to help the baby's lungs to mature more quickly.

Other complications that may necessitate an induced early delivery include diabetes, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), placenta praevia and pre-eclampsia. If the situation is putting you or your baby at risk, he or she may be delivered by caesarean section.

Chat or Ask a Question:

If you have a question about this article or something else, visit our friendly forums & ask the AskBaby community.

Chat about reasons for a premature baby with our friendly community...

Your Comments:

We'd love to hear your comments on this article...

Login to add your comment:

Email: Password:
Not yet a member? Join thousands of other parents and parents-to-be... Sign Up Now!
Forgot your

plz help iam 6 month pregnent,from last 2 months iam passing lots of liquid of yellow colour is it safe ,it doesnt cause premature delivery
by deepesh 30th Nov 2011, 9:28am
I had my little boy at 33 weeks on the 29.12.10 due to severe pre-clampsia we both nearly died.(emergency c-section with him)
he weighed 3poud 90z and was in hospital for 3 weeks was very stressful but now he is home fit and well :)
by jadeyyyy 10th Feb 2011, 8:49am
I was emergency c-section when my daughter was born at 33wks because of pro-laps. She was breech baby & was stepping on her cord. She weighed 2.195 kl, lot's of sleepless nights. But have faith & it will be worth a while.
by Mistique 15th Nov 2010, 8:54am
Q is it safe to give birth at 34wks? I'm having alot of problems with this pregnancy.
by lynnemc16 21st May 2010, 4:08pm
could intercourse in late trimester trigger PROM and premature birth?
by snoggy 14th May 2010, 5:20pm
I am 34 weeks pregnant and second-hand smoke is a problem to were i live. No matter how hard me and my fiance tell his mom not to smoke in the house or around me the more she makes up excuses to not to stop smoking. I know this is harmful to me and my unborn baby. I need help to tell her that it's not safe.
by tina01abney 30th Oct 2009, 10:07am
My son was born 37 weeks early, had breathing problems, has been hospitlized dozens of times but i am glad that he is alive but he still has delays which i just pray that everything will be okay with him.
by looking4answer 7th Oct 2009, 9:35am
My daughter Lily was born at 30 weeks weighing 3lb 7.5oz, she is now 2 months old and weighs 8lb, Lily was only on CPAP for 8 hours and after 4 weeks in hospital she was allowed to come home, just goes to show that anything is possible as long as you keep up faith :)
by HazelT 18th May 2009, 9:33am
My premature baby was born at 24 wks 0days weighing 1lb 8oz. I had a spontaneous identical triplet pregnancy which was complicated by Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. I had intrauterine surgery at 23 weeks, PROM, my babies were delivered at 24 weeks, one baby was stillborn, my other baby weighed 1lb 5oz and died from NEC complication in the NICU at 1 month of age. My surviving triplet just turned one year old, he spent 4 months in a NICU, two months on a vent, some time on C-PAP and had 3 surgeries and he required multiple blood transfusions. We brought him home on oxygen and a apnea monitor. He was diagnosed with mild cardiomyopathy which has resolved. In spite of his rough start he is doing great. He now weighs 16lbs 5oz. He is a little behind developmentally, but so far we have not noticed any major problems. He is our miracle!
Feel free to follow his blog at
by dprivett 17th Apr 2009, 9:21am
My son Ryan was born on the 15th March by emergency c section as i had palcenta previa and bleed... he was just 28 weeks. i lost alot of blood and have had my utereus removed by the surgeon at the same time. I am looking for hope he weighs 2.13ibs and has been on the a ventaliator for 7 days although he did manage a short stint off the vent.
by melmckenna 25th Mar 2008, 9:03am
i agree, they said it's a 39% survival rate at 24 weeks, and it's actually 50%.....I think they just need to update the info!!
by Lynsay 20th Mar 2008, 8:36am
I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy with my twin boys. An accident caused me to deliver the boys at just 23 weeks. The article posted on "reasons for premature birth" gave statistics for the undeveloped 23 week baby having a 17% chance of survival. I disagree. I believe the statistic is higher. My boys are now 5 years old and have no blindness, deafness or cerebal palsey. Those are the three that affect an extreme preemie the most. So, to all of the panicked mothers who are on bedrest, or gave birth very early; anything is possible! Keep the faith and stay positive no matter what!
by Lizabeth 25th Oct 2007, 8:36am