EVERY parent’s wish during pregnancy is for a quick (and ideally pain free) birth and a healthy baby.

Unfortunately for some, it does not always work that way.

In fact, premature babies are becoming more common, with charities saying about 15 million babies are born too early every year.

After nine months of wanting to meet their babies, it can be devastating for parents who have poorly or premature babies.

Thankfully, for parents of babies in the neonatal unit at Colchester General Hospital, there is support.

The Colchester Miracle Babies group was set up about five years ago, by the mother of a premature baby.

Fiona Knight took over the running of the group in September, and wants to raise awareness of the help they offer.

“All members are volunteers who have had sick or premature babies in the neonatal unit,” she said.

“We work closely with the nurses there, they hand out leaflets on our group when the parents leave the unit.

“The aim is to provide peer support for those parents as unless you have been through the same thing, it’s difficult to understand what it’s like.”

The neonatal unit at Colchester General Hospital has 17 cots.

There is en-suite accommodation on the unit to allow parents to stay with their baby.

The unit supports about 4,000 deliveries per year.

Fiona has first hand experience of complications at birth.

Her son, Connor, who is now two, was born five weeks prematurely and unable to move his neck.

She said: “No kind of support is the same as speaking to someone who has been through it.

“If a baby is born early there can be development issues and mums then worry.”

The support groups run three times a month, from Virgin Care children’s centres around Colchester.

The groups are similar to usual baby and toddler groups, but there are a number of precautions.

Some of the babies attending are still on oxygen or feeding tubes, and are more prone to infection, so it is vital they are kept away from other people with illnesses.

It is just one of the things the 400 parents involved in the groups have had to become accustomed to.

Fiona said one of the worst things parents have to go through is not being able to have first contact with their babies when they are born.

She said: “For some it can be a few hours or it can sometimes be days or weeks.

“It’s just watching the blood tests being taken, the tube feeding, you feel helpless and a lot of mums really struggle with that.

“A lot of babies have to be transferred to different hospitals and the parents have to travel back and forth to see them.”

Despite having been through so much, the group members have been proactive in raising awareness and funds to support the babies.

At a recent charity event they raised enough money to buy new furniture and toys for the family rooms in the neonatal unit.

They are also hosting a craft fair at the JobServe Community Stadium in Colchester on November 11.

Their next event is on Sunday, called Walk for a Miracle.

The walk was held at High Woods Country Park in Colchester and all money raised will go towards funding the group.

To donate directly to the group visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/miraclebabies.

To find out more about their charity events visit www.facebook.com/colchestermbevents.