NEW guidance setting out how babies born alive before 24 weeks of pregnancy in Wales should be cared for in order to maximise their chances of survival have been set out.

The new Welsh Government guidelines set out how health boards should care for extremely premature babies, while supporting families by ensuring they are fully involved in decision-making about their treatment.

Among the guidelines are, when the birth of an extremely premature baby is anticipated or takes place, for midwives to consult with the on-call neonatal or paediatric team, before the birth born if possible, to ensure clinical assessments are planned and undertaken.

Decision-making about ongoing care must also involve families while taking into account professional advice.

The guidance has been developed with help from Emma Jones, whose son Riley died after he was born after just 22 week and four days in December 2013. Ms Jones, of Cardiff, said she was concerned there was no professional guidance for how to care for babies born alive before 24 weeks.

Ms Jones said: "My journey for change started at the National Assembly when I presented my signed petition. From Riley’s death came a fight for change, which ended in success."

Wales' chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton said parents of premature babies and medical workers were faced with "difficult and distressing decisions".

"Whilst medical science has provided many advances in the care of very premature babies, especially those born under 26 weeks of gestation, there are limits to what is possible in terms of survival," he said.

"Very tiny babies, even when they are born alive, may not be able to be resuscitated because their airways and lungs are too immature and delicate to withstand intubation and ventilation, and their blood vessels too small to administer medicines or fluids.

"We recognised there was a need for the Welsh Government to develop this additional guidance, because the current professional guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine does not state what the NHS should do to care for babies born alive before 24 weeks."

All health boards in Wales have a lead midwife for bereavement responsible for supporting families when babies do not survive.