Why does cervical damage cause preterm labour?

Ioannis Pavlidis, Sara Rinaldi, Heather MacPherson, Jane Norman, Sarah Stock

Scientists think that damage to the cervix makes it easier for infections to travel to the womb, resulting in preterm labour. Our researchers have developed a new way to study how this happens, so that we can prevent premature birth and problems it causes.

This research study is now complete

Start: 2015

End: 2018

Why do we need this research?

The cervix is important in making sure a baby isn’t born too early. It not only keeps the baby inside the womb until labour, but also helps stop infections from entering the womb and hurting the baby. We already know that premature birth can be a result of something going wrong with the cervix. However, at the moment we’re not sure how the cervix normally works to stop the baby from being born too soon.

What’s happening in this project?

As a first step to help us understand more about the cervix’s role in humans, researchers supported by Tommy’s are looking at pregnancies in mice. In this project, our scientists developed a new way to study in mice how the cervix is involved in premature birth. By damaging cells in the cervixes of pregnant mice, the team believed that the mice would be less able to stop infections from entering the womb, and that they will then give birth early.

Our scientists showed for the first time that damage to the cervix does increases infections that are known to be linked to preterm birth. This information is crucial to help develop new treatments to prevent this from happening.=

What difference will this project make?

This project has provided new insights about how the cervix stops infections from reaching the womb, and so prevents premature birth. This will help our researchers develop better tools to identify which women are at risk of preterm labour. It could also lead to treatments to better manage and potentially stop babies being born too early.

Get our research updates

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for pregnancy complications and loss. If you're interested in being kept updated about our research and news from Tommy's, click here.

More research projects

Latest news and views

  • Picture of Jennie Agg


    A personal meaning of motherhood and Mother's Day

    We asked our lovely friend and supporter, Jennie Agg, what motherhood and Mother's Day means to her. In this piece, she speaks of her difficult past experiences of Mother's Day, how she has grappled with a sense of being in limbo, and the ultimate purity of her feeling of mother love.

  • Collage of photos showing six women who have experienced baby loss, miscarriage and infertility


    Advice to help you cope on Mother’s Day

    In the lead up to Mother's Day, you might find yourself thinking about how to process your emotions and what to do on the day itself. The anticipation can often feel scary or daunting, and finding ways to look after yourself is important. In this blog, you'll find advice from a few of our lovely supporters who understand how you're feeling.

  • Mother holding newborn baby


    Giving some pregnant women progesterone could prevent 8,450 miscarriages a year, say experts

    New research has revealed the benefits of giving progesterone to women with early pregnancy bleeding and a history of miscarriage.

  • Tim Draycott, Clinical Director of Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement, giving a presentation to audience at the 'Portraying Pregnancy' event


    Tommy's hosts breakfast morning at the Foundling Museum

    Tommy’s spent yesterday morning at the charming Foundling Museum in London, celebrating the work of Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement alongside the opening of the museum’s new exhibition, ‘Portraying Pregnancy’.

    Was this information useful?

    Yes No