EQUIPTT – testing an app to calculate risk of premature birth

Dr Natalie Suff, Mr Paul Seed, Prof Andrew Shennan, Dr Helena Watson, Prof Rachel Tribe, Dr Jenny Carter, Dr Katy Kuhrt, Miss Naomi Carlisle

We are funding a clinical trial to find out whether the QUIPP app – developed by Tommy’s researchers – can help doctors treat women at risk of premature birth. This will help save more babies lives and reduce chances of health problems in the future.

Why do we need this research?

Premature birth can lead to health problems for both mother and baby. There are ways that doctors can help mothers who are showing signs that they might give birth early. These interventions can delay labour, or reduce the health risks linked with premature birth. However, for these interventions to be most effective, they need to be given at the right time before delivery. 

Too often, mothers are transferred to specialist neonatal units before they really need to. This can put pressure on the health service, and prevent other patients getting the care they need. It can also cause stress and anxiety for the mother and her family.

We need better ways to predict how likely a mother is to go into premature labour, so that they can get the right care at the right time.

What’s happening in this project?

Researchers supported by Tommy’s have developed the QUIPP app, which can help doctors predict the chances of premature birth. The aim of the app is to help them decide which women need further medical help, and which don’t. It works by looking at different measures, including the levels of a protein called fetal fibronectin in the woman’s vagina, the length of her cervix, and any previous history of premature birth.

To find out whether the QUIPP app really is effective, our researchers have now set up the EQUIPTT trial to test if it helps doctors to make better decisions for the care of women at risk of premature birth. The team have recruited more than 2,400 women to take part in the EQUIPTT study, from 14 maternity units across England. In half of these units, doctors used the QUIPP app to calculate the chance that a woman will give birth in the next seven days. Our researchers are also assessing whether the app helps to reduce anxiety in mothers at risk of premature birth.

The data from the study is currently being analysed, and the results should be announced in 2020.

What difference will this project make? 

The EQUIPTT study will find out whether the QUIPP app helps doctors make decisions about the care of women at risk of premature labour. If successful, this app will help reduce unnecessary interventions, and ensure that the women who really do need treatment get it as soon as possible. This will improve the chances of them giving birth to a healthy baby.

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