Reducing preterm birth rates

New guidelines developed by the UK Preterm Clinical Network will reduce the rates of preterm births.

Tommy's are pleased to have been involved with the development of NHS England’s Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle that aims to reduce stillbirth across the country. The 'care bundle' is a group of actions that have been put together to reduce stillbirth.

Alongside a focus on specific elements such as reducing smoking in pregnancy and monitoring fetal movements, the Saving Babies' Lives Care Bundle is now being updated in 2019 to include measures to reduce preterm birth. 

The recent Department of Health and Social Care publication Safer Maternity Care: next steps towards the national maternity ambition [2017], made it clear that:

‘We will not achieve the national Maternity Safety Ambition [to halve the rates of stillbirths, neonatal and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth by 2025] unless the rate of preterm births is reduced.’Secretary of State for Health

The Secretary of State for Health set an additional ambition to reduce the national rate of preterm births from 8% to 6%.

Reducing preterm birth rates 

In order to do reduce preterm birth rates, and to reduce differences in care across NHS England, new guidelines, ‘Reducing Preterm Birth’ [2019], have been developed by the UK Preterm Clinical Network. 

‘Reducing Preterm Birth: Guidelines for Commissioners and Providers’ provide evidence-based recommendations for commissioning groups and outline best practice care which aims to:

  • predict women at risk of preterm birth
  • implement strategies to prevent preterm birth
  • prepare the mother and baby when preterm birth is inevitable
  • where preterm birth has taken place before 34 weeks, the importance of post-pregnancy consultation with parents is also discussed. 

Sources of funding and ways of evaluating performance are also outlined.

Tommy’s has supported the development of these guidelines which are aimed to sit alongside the national guidance within the Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle.

'Preterm birth has been a major clinical conundrum for us. Thanks to recent research and the realisation that something must change, these guidelines have been produced with tangible ways to make a real difference to pregnant women and their babies. Identifying those at risk and providing evidence-based care can reduce preterm birth and its consequences. We are very excited about this initiative and look forward to rolling this out across the NHS.' Professor Andrew Shennan, Tommy's Prematurity Research Centre, St Thomas' Hospital

Read the full preterm birth guidelines here.

Read more about our preterm birth research

  • Clinician scanning a pregnant woman

    The London Preterm (premature birth) Surveillance Clinic

    This unique Preterm Surveillance Clinic – funded by Tommy's as part of our research in St Thomas' Hospital, London, has won an NHS Innovation Challenge Prize, for its success in reducing the number of premature births in South East London.

  • researcher looking at samples in the Tommy's London centre

    Tommy's London research centre

    Tommy’s prematurity research centre in London is based at St Thomas’ Hospital, where the charity first began. Opened in 1995, it is the first Maternal and Fetal Research Unit in the UK.

  • Nurse monitoring premature baby in hospital

    Research into premature birth

    Around 60,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the UK. These babies are vulnerable – they are born before they have grown to cope with the outside world. Tommy’s is saving lives by researching how we can prevent premature births by finding those at risk early on.

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