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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Premature birth

Mō te whakawhānau pēpi wawe

Premature baby sleepingMost babies are born between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy – they're called term babies. Premature babies are those born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Premature birth is quite common. Some babies are born just a week or two before term, while others are born extremely early.

About 10% of babies are born before 37 weeks and about 1% of babies are born before 30 weeks, which is classified as very premature.

Babies can survive outside the womb from 23 to 24 weeks, but the earlier they're born, the more likely they are to have lifelong problems. The nearer to term a baby is born, the fewer problems they're likely to have. This is because they have had more time to grow and develop in the womb.

Several factors can increase your risk of going into premature labour, including if you:

If you're concerned that you're going into labour early, contact your midwife as soon as possible. You may be able to have medication to stop or delay labour. This will give your baby more time to be prepared for birth.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Caring for a premature baby

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed February 2022.


Page reference: 439454

Review key: HIPRE-439454