Amber Clinic (premature birth prevention clinic)

The Amber Clinic is dedicated to the assessment, treatment and individualised care of women and other pregnant people (and their families) who are at an increased risk of having a premature (pre-term) birth. A pre-term birth is one that happens before 34 weeks, or waters breaking (rupture of membranes), very early. 

A baby's feet held in an adult's hands

Premature labour

On most occasions, labour occurs between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. If labour occurs before 37 weeks, it is known as a premature (preterm) labour. Preterm birth is the delivery of a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Going into labour early is worrying and distressing for patients and their families. It is understandable that you would be concerned about the effects this would have on your baby. In the UK, having a baby early is common; one in 13 babies are born premature.

Some premature births occur because the doctor recommends an early delivery as there are concerns about the health of the mother and/or baby.

Premature babies have an increased risk of health problems including:

  • breathing difficulties
  • feeding difficulties
  • increased risks of infection 

The earlier a baby is born, the more likely they are to have these problems. Babies may need to be looked after in the neonatal unit. However, most premature babies survive and most children do not develop serious, long term disabilities.

If you give birth before 24 weeks of pregnancy, it is sadly less likely that your baby will survive. Those babies that do survive, often have serious health problems.

We will discuss these risks with you further, if you are referred to the Amber Clinic. 

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Why might I give birth early?

There are many reasons why you might be more likely to have your baby early:

In your previous pregnancies:

• preterm birth or ruptured membranes
• late miscarriage or preterm birth (between 16 to 34 weeks of pregnancy)
• a caesarean section at full dilatation
• need for intervention such as a stitch around the cervix to keep it  closed (cervical cerclage)

In your current pregnancy:

• vaginal bleeding after 14 weeks
• you are carrying twins or triplets
• there is excess fluid circulating around your baby
• your waters have broken early
• you have had fertility treatment
• you are known to have a short cervix

In your medical history:

• previous cervical treatments or cervical surgery (often for an abnormality identified on your smear test)
• known uterine anomalies - such as - a ‘heart shaped’ or bicornuate uterus
• you are a smoker

None of these risk factors may apply to you, however. Often we are not able to explain exactly why preterm labour happens.

If you attend the Amber Clinic, we will ask you quite a lot of questions. This is so we can best understand your risk of preterm labour.