November 17th is World Prematurity Day, which is a global movement to raise awareness of premature birth and the devastating impact it can have on families.   

What is a premature birth?

A premature birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Some premature births are planned where it is in the best interest of the mother and baby, for example, where the mother develops pre-eclampsia or the baby suffers foetal growth restriction.

Prematurity is categorised as follows;

  • Extremely preterm – before 28 weeks
  • Very preterm – 28 – 32 weeks
  • Moderate to late preterm – 32-37 weeks

How common is premature birth?

According to data collated by the charity BLISS, nearly 58,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK every year.  This means that 1 in every 13 babies born in the UK will be premature. Sadly, those numbers are increasing:

In 2020 the overall percentage of preterm live births was 7.4%.

In 2021 this figure rose to 7.6%.

Studies show that babies from the black ethnic group have had the highest proportion of preterm births since data collection began in 2007.

What can cause a premature birth?

According to Tommy’ the main causes of premature birth are unknown and spontaneous. Sometimes births are purposely premature if it means it is safer for the mother and baby. However there are some known causes such as;

  • having already had a premature baby
  • having experienced a previously late miscarriage
  • Low PAPP-A Levels
  • Placenta praevia
  • Polyhydramnios
  • Preterm Premature Rupture of the membranes
  • Uterine abnormalities
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Type 1&2 diabetes or gestational diabetes
  • Infection in the womb
  • Ethnicity
  • Age – “geriatric mothers” are more likely to have premature labour

What impact does a premature birth have?

All babies born prematurely are vulnerable to a host of problems such as health and development problems because they have not fully developed in the womb. The more premature a baby is the more they are likely to be vulnerable to such problems. Every baby is different and whilst one baby may not have any developmental issues, another may suffer issues such as cerebral palsy or behavioural issues.

Babies born very early are likely to need special care in a hospital’s neonatal unit which has specialist facilities for premature babies.

Not all hospitals have facilities for the care of very premature babies, so it may be necessary to transfer you and your baby to another unit.

Not all health problems arising from being born prematurely are obvious and may become more noticeable as a baby grows.

Can a premature birth be stopped or delayed?

If you’re in premature labour you may be offered medicine to try to slow down or stop your labour and/or steroid injections, which can help your baby’s lungs get ready for breathing if they’re born prematurely.

If you’re extremely to very preterm then you may be offered magnesium sulphate to help protect your baby’s brain development. However, if you take magnesium sulphate for more than 5 to 7 days or several times during your pregnancy, your newborn baby may be offered extra checks. This is because prolonged use of magnesium sulphate can lead to bone problems.

Making a clinical negligence claim

There are some natural reasons as to why a baby may be born prematurely, however, preterm labour and delivery can sometimes arise as a result of clinical negligence.

At Thompson, Smith and Puxon, our team of clinical negligence solicitors have the knowledge and expertise needed to competently handle medical negligence cases involving premature birth.

If you or someone you care about would like some advice on this topic, please call our experts today on 01206 574431 or email

We work on a no win, no fee basis; meaning that there is no risk of loss in making a claim. Our medical negligence experts will take some details and discuss the next steps with you, giving a clear and honest opinion on your chances of a successful claim.