Why does cervical damage cause preterm labour?

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

Scientists think that damaged cervixes make it easier for infections to travel to the womb, resulting in preterm labour.

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.

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. Scientists damaged cells in the cervixes of pregnant mice to see if this caused premature birth. We think that by damaging the cervix, the mice will be less able to stop infection from entering the womb, and that they will then give birth early.

By studying mice to show how infections can lead to premature birth, we will be able to tell better how this works in humans. This will pave the way for better treatments aimed at stopping premature birth. 

Thanks for your interest in our research

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for pregnancy complications and loss. Maternal and fetal research is underfunded and we need your support to continue. There are many small and large ways you can support us, find out more here.


This study is fully funded by Tommy's and takes place in a Tommy's centre

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