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.

Find a premature birth research project

Premature or preterm birth is when a baby is born before 37 full weeks of pregnancy. Globally, more than 1 in 10 pregnancies end in premature birth – around 15 million babies every year.

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 on 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 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.

Current research projects

Completed research projects

Why our research is needed


1. WHO (2012) Country data and rankings for preterm birth 2012, World Health Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland,

2. WHO (2017) Preterm birth fact sheet 2017, World Health Organisation, Geneva Switzerland,

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Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.
  • By Rafia Akhter (not verified) on 20 Mar 2019 - 01:15

    Can you please advise if water break by womb leakage . Then is womb can be well and leak free ? And how?

  • By suksham Jain (not verified) on 23 Feb 2019 - 05:31

    Wonderful initative. We would like to be part of this audit tool . I am working as professor and head Neonatology at GMCH, Chandigarh, India. We are also partof Intergrowth Tool for preterm care and feeding

  • By Padmavathi Bavi... (not verified) on 12 Dec 2018 - 02:29

    I lost my son at 22 week 1 day, we did recognize broke until three days because of other symptoms, I would request mother or parents should have clear an idea on other pregency symptoms and water broke.

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 13 Dec 2018 - 15:56

    Hi Padmavathi, Thank you for your comment.

    We are so very sorry to hear about the loss of your little boy, we can't even begin to imagine what this must be like for you and your family. Waters breaking at such an early gestation does have a high risk for the baby. If you feel that you were not made aware of what was happening to you then it may be beneficial for you to speak to your doctor who can give you a chance to debrief on the whole experience and then this may give you some answers to any questions that you may have. Please take care and be kind to yourself, Tommy's Midwives x

  • By susan Greaves (not verified) on 1 Aug 2018 - 17:04

    I would very much like to know where to find the figures for the increase in premature births in the UK over the last two decades

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