Premature or preterm birth is when a baby is born before 37 full weeks of pregnancy. It is the leading cause of newborn deaths worldwide, and the second major cause of deaths in young children. 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.
Here are some of our 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.
- We are collaborating with Health Protection Scotland to find out if the HPV vaccine lowers rates of premature birth.
- We are building a tool that can tell how likely a woman is to go into premature labour, so we can focus on women who really need help.
- Scientists have found that drugs normally used to prevent heart disease may delay preterm birth.
Individual premature birth research projects
Harriet Brennan, who blogs at ToughBubba, writes about her traumatic journey to parenthood through preterm labour and transverse birth.
James Farina, father to premature baby Robyn, shares his top tips for fathers going through NICU based on his own experience.
Coming into the world four months early and having open heart surgery in her first few weeks, ‘miracle baby’ Bernadette Holt has just celebrated her 21st birthday!
Your baby being born too soon may mean that he or she is not fully developed and might be very small. These new nappies are specially designed to fit the smallest baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
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.
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.
A preterm birth, one that happens before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, is the number one cause of newborn deaths and the second leading cause of deaths in children under five.