New research is helping to prevent cerebral palsy in premature babies

Tommy’s is supporting a nationwide initiative to reduce the number of premature babies who develop cerebral palsy.

Tommy’s news, 25/01/2019

Tommy’s is pleased to be supporting PReCePT – a nationwide initiative helping to reduce the number of premature babies who develop cerebral palsy. PReCePT stands for the Prevention of Cerebral Palsy in PreTerm Labour.

Every year, over 8,500 women in the UK give birth very early because of complications with their pregnancy. If women go into labour at less than 30 weeks, there is an increased risk that their baby could develop cerebral palsy.

PReCePT is turning this around by working with midwives, obstetricians and neonatologists in every maternity unit in England to ensure mothers going into preterm labour before 30 weeks are offered a dose of magnesium sulphate to help protect their unborn baby.

Magnesium sulphate reduces the risk of cerebral palsy by 30%, and a single dose costs from just £1.  

It’s completely the mother’s decision on whether or not to take magnesium sulphate, and parents should talk to their doctor and midwife for more information on magnesium sulphate, preterm labour and what this means for your baby.

The aim of PReCePT is to make sure all eligible women are given this choice, and in this way is helping to improve the quality of care for women during preterm labour, ensuring care is more woman-centred.

Mothers who experienced preterm labours have helped shape the PReCePT programme, and are keen to encourage other women in the same position to be given magnesium sulphate to reduce the risk of their babies developing cerebral palsy.

Elly Salisbury received magnesium sulphate when she went into labour at just 27 weeks. Speaking about her experience of PReCePT she said: “Cormac has just turned five and he’s an amazing little boy, he has no signs of cerebral palsy at all. I truly believe that the magnesium sulphate was part of that. Elly goes on to explain:

I think it’s incredible that across the country all mothers in my situation will be offered magnesium sulphate. It will make such a difference to thousands of babies, and that in itself is just so completely worth it.

The programme was originally developed by the West of England Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) in collaboration with University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, and involved both patients and staff. It is now funded by NHS England to be delivered across the England by the AHSN Network.

More research is vital so that we can understand which women are likely to go into labour early, and help them carry their baby for as long as possible. Tommy’s support cutting-edge work into the causes and prevention of premature birth through our centres in both London and Edinburgh. Clinics at both centres care for mums at risk of preterm birth.

Recent research highlights

  • Researchers have found that levels of a protein called elafin could be used to tell which women are most at risk of going into early labour.
  • We are helping women around the world have healthy pregnancies by trialling a cheap, easy-to-use saliva test that can tell how likely a woman is to give birth prematurely.
  • The SUPPORT trial is the first ever clinical study comparing the effectiveness of three different treatments in preventing premature birth in women with a shortened cervix.
  • Scientists have found that drugs normally used to prevent heart disease may delay preterm birth.

Find out more about PReCePT here.