Being born too early can increase the chance of problems linked to prematurity, such as breathing difficulties and longer stays in the neonatal intensive care unit. However, staying in the womb may cause infections for both mother and baby that can lead to serious health problems and even death. If a pregnant woman’s waters break without contractions before 37 weeks of pregnancy there are two options: for the baby to be born as soon as possible, or to wait for labour to start naturally. We need to carefully look at the risks and benefits of both options.

Key findings

- Early birth increased the risk of infant death after birth, as well as breathing problems, with the newborn needing extra help to breathe.

- The babies of women who had a planned early birth were more likely to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care, and were born earlier than babies of women who waited to

give birth.

- Early birth also increased the rate of caesarean section, induction of labour and the risk of infection of the lining of the womb but decreased the risk of infection in the membranes.