Expecting a Premature Birth

If you are anticipating having a preterm infant, are receiving care as part of a high-risk pregnancy program, or want to know more about what having a baby in the NICU might be like, here are some resources for you.

  • All pregnant women, high risk or not, should know the signs of preterm labour. Best Start has created a resource for families that describes the signs and gives advice on what to do.
  • If you’re going to give birth prematurely, you want to have your baby at the highest level centre possible. Research shows that babies born at centres with a high risk pregnancy program and a high level NICU (usually a level 3 in Canada) have better outcomes. In an emergency you of course go to the closest hospital, but take the time to learn about what the hospitals are like that are closest to you, regardless of your birth plan, so that if you have the opportunity to choose you can go to the hospital that offers the appropriate level of care.
  • Many parents are, very reasonably, worried about what giving birth to a preterm baby will be like. A UK-based website, Tommys.org, has some great information about what parents can expect.
  • One of the first gifts you can give to your baby is colostrum. Many units are now encouraging mothers to hand-express colostrum as soon as possible after birth, in order to give babies that immune-boosting ‘liquid gold” as soon as possible. If you are part of a high-risk program, ask them about early hand expression, and learn more about the technique from a leading researcher in this field. This article explains some of the details of Dr. Jane Morton’s research, and you can see videos of the technique in action on this website.
  • Many NICUs will offer introductory materials to parents, and some will facilitate a tour for high risk parents-to-be. They may also have photos or virtual tours on their websites. If possible, take the time to familiarize yourself with the environment before giving birth.
  • There are many stressful aspects to anticipating a preterm birth. The website KeepEmCooking.com has great tips for dealing with activity limits, and BC Women’s offers a comprehensive introduction to mindfulness and meditation for expectant parents.
  • If you want to learn more about the people you’ll meet in the NICU, and about some of the new words you’ll hear, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre offers a Who’s Who in the NICU and a Glossary on their website.