Why it’s good to ask questions about premature birth
It’s OK to feel worried in the lead-up to a premature birth. For example, you might feel worried about your baby, your health or your partner’s health.
These worries might feel even bigger if you have to go through a birth you haven’t planned in a hospital you don’t know.
One way to feel more in control is to get information. You can start by working out what you need and want to know and asking some questions.
Where premature babies are born
One big question might be – where will I have my premature baby?
If your baby or babies will be born very early – 32 weeks or earlier – you might need to give birth in a hospital that has a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), rather than the hospital you’re booked into.
Hospitals with NICUs are usually in bigger cities. If you live in a regional, rural or remote area, you might have to go to a city hospital before the birth.
If your baby is born at a hospital without a NICU and needs to go to one, the hospital will use a specialised baby ambulance. These ambulances are like mobile NICUs. They’re staffed with a nurse and doctor who specialise in caring for and transporting sick and premature babies.
Once you’re well enough to travel after the birth, you might be able to transfer to the hospital’s maternity unit or accommodation. Most hospitals with NICUs have accommodation, but this is limited and usually available only for regional or remote parents while their baby is in the NICU.
What happens during and after premature birth
Knowing what to expect during a premature birth might help with some of your worries. It can help to talk to your doctor or midwife to find out more about the birth, what will happen afterwards and how the medical staff will support you. Your doctor or midwife will usually arrange for you to talk to the medical team who will care for you and your baby.
Here are questions you can ask your doctor or midwife about premature labour, birth and babies and about how medical staff will support you. When you ask questions like these, it’s OK to say you’d like things explained clearly and simply so that you can understand.
Premature labour and birth
- Do you know why my labour has started, or will start, so early?
- Can I still have my birth preference – for example, a vaginal delivery, caesarean, no pain relief? If not, why not?
- I haven’t had a chance to go to any birth classes. What should I expect? Will you help me through my labour?
- Will I be able to get pain relief during labour?
- Will you tell me how my labour is going and how my baby is going?
Your health and wellbeing
- Will I need any medicines? Why? What will the medicines do?
- Can my partner stay with me until after the baby is born?
- I’m feeling really upset about all this. It’s not what I expected, and I’m worried about my baby. What can you do to help me?
- Who else can I talk to about how I’m feeling? Can you connect me with a support group?
Your premature baby
- Can my partner or I see and touch my baby immediately after birth?
- What will my baby look like?
- What support will my baby need after birth?
- When will I be able to hold my baby?
- What special equipment or medicines will my baby need? What do they do?
- Will my baby live? Will my baby be healthy? Will my baby develop like other babies?
Neonatal intensive care
- Will my baby need to go to the NICU? How soon after birth?
- Will I or my partner be able to go to the NICU with our baby?
- How long will my baby be in the NICU?
- How can I help care for my baby in the NICU?
Sometimes there isn’t much time to discuss things before a premature birth happens. You’ll still have many opportunities after the birth to talk with medical staff about what’s best for your baby.
It can help to write down your questions before you see your doctor or midwife or other medical staff. You could also take a support person to the appointment with you. Your support person can write down answers and make notes for you.