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

  • Tommy's Preterm Birth Surveillance Clinic

    The London Preterm Birth Surveillance Clinic

    Tommy’s Preterm Surveillance Clinic at St Thomas' Hospital provides specialist care to pregnant women who are at high risk of having their baby early.

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

    Tommy's London Research Centre

    At our London Research Centre at Kings College London and St Thomas' Hospital, our internationally renowned clinicians focus on understanding and preventing premature birth. The team also carry out cutting-edge research into pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and hypertension.

  • Premature birth statistics

    A preterm birth is one that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Globally, more than 1 in 10 pregnancies will end in preterm birth.

Sources

1. WHO (2012) Country data and rankings for preterm birth 2012, World Health Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland, http://www.who.int/pmnch/media/news/2012/201204_borntoosoon_countryranki...

2. WHO (2017) Preterm birth fact sheet 2017, World Health Organisation, Geneva Switzerland, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs363/en/

Hide details