The study objective was to analyze the association between low plasma vasopressin and progression of sepsis to septic shock in neonates < 34 weeks gestation. Septic neonates of < 34 weeks gestation were consecutively enrolled; moribund neonates and those with major malformations were excluded. Subjects were monitored for progression of sepsis to septic shock over the first 7 days from enrolment. Plasma vasopressin levels and inducible nitric oxide synthase levels were measured at the onset of sepsis (T0), severe sepsis (T1), and septic shock (T2). Primary outcome was plasma vasopressin levels at the point of sepsis in those who progressed to septic shock in comparison with matched nested controls in the non-progression group. Forty-nine (47%) enrolled subjects developed severe sepsis or septic shock. Plasma vasopressin levels (pg/ml) at the onset of sepsis were significantly low in those who progressed to septic shock (median (IQR), 31 (2.5-80) versus 100 (12-156); p = 0.02). After adjusting for confounders, vasopressin levels were independently associated with progression to septic shock (adjusted OR (95% CI), 0.97 (0.96, 0.99); p = 0.01).Conclusion: Preterm septic neonates who progressed to septic shock had suppressed vasopressin levels before the onset of shock. Low vasopressin levels were independently associated with progression to septic shock.What is known:• In animal sepsis models and adult septic patients, exuberant production of nitric oxide metabolites and low vasopressin levels have been reportedly associated with progression to septic shock.• Vasopressin levels have been variably reported as low as well as elevated in children with septic shock.What is New:• Preterm neonates who progressed from sepsis to septic shock had significantly lower levels of vasopressin before the onset of shock in comparison with those who did not progress.• Low vasopressin levels independently predicted the progression from sepsis to septic shock in this population.