Intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH) continues to be a major complication of prematurity that can result in cerebral palsy and cognitive impairment in survivors. No optimal therapy exists to prevent IVH or to treat its consequences. IVH varies in severity and can present as a bleed confined to the germinal matrix, small-to-large IVH or periventricular haemorrhagic infarction. Moderate-to-severe haemorrhage dilates the ventricle and damages the periventricular white matter. This white matter injury results from a constellation of blood-induced pathological reactions, including oxidative stress, glutamate excitotoxicity, inflammation, perturbed signalling pathways and remodelling of the extracellular matrix. Potential therapies for IVH are currently undergoing investigation in preclinical models and evidence from clinical trials suggests that stem cell treatment and/or endoscopic removal of clots from the cerebral ventricles could transform the outcome of infants with IVH. This Review presents an integrated view of new insights into the mechanisms underlying white matter injury in premature infants with IVH and highlights the importance of early detection of disability and immediate intervention in optimizing the outcomes of IVH survivors.