New app developed by Tommy's researchers can predict risk of preterm birth

The app, which has been developed at the Tommy's research centre in St Thomas' Hospital in London, can help doctors to better identify women at risk of giving birth prematurely.

The new app, which is called QUiPP could help doctors to better identify women at risk of giving birth prematurely. The app was tested in two studies of high-risk women being monitored at antenatal clinics.

The app uses an algorithm to bring a number of factors together to calculate the woman's risk, including

  • her history of preterm births or late miscarriages
  • the length of cervix
  • the presence of a substance in the vaginal fluid known as fetal fibronectin.

The investigators have further developed the fetal fibronectin test to be accurately used from the first half of pregnancy.

The first study focused on women deemed to be a high risk of preterm birth, usually because of a previous early pregnancy, despite not showing any symptoms. The second study predicted the likelihood of early delivery in a group of women showing symptoms of early labour which often doesn’t progress to real labour.

The app was trialled in two separate studies and was found to be a good way to predict preterm birth - far better than each component (previous pregnancy, cervical length or fetal fibronectin) looked at in isolation.

The app could be used by clinicians to predict premature birth and to provide effective treatment or management if needed.

However, further work is needed to clinically evaluate the model in practice, and to ascertain whether interventions improve the pregnancy outcome for women identified as high risk by the app.

Professor Andrew Shennan, Head of the Tommy's clinic in St Thomas' Hospital in London, said:

“Despite advances in prenatal care the rate of preterm birth has never been higher in recent years, including in the US and UK, so doctors need reliable ways of predicting whether a woman is at risk of giving birth early. It can be difficult to accurately assess a woman’s risk, given that many women who show symptoms of preterm labour do not go on to deliver early.

“The more accurately we can predict her risk, the better we can manage a woman’s pregnancy to ensure the safest possible birth for her and her baby, only intervening when necessary to admit these ‘higher risk’ women to hospital, prescribe steroids or offer other treatments to try to prevent an early birth.”

QUiPP is available to download for free from the Apple store.

Read more

‘Development and validation of a predictive tool for spontaneous preterm birth incorporating cervical length and quantitative fetal fibronectin in asymptomatic high-risk women’ by Kuhrt et al is published in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology in January 2016 (DOI: 10.1002/uog.14865) and is accessible here.

‘Development and validation of a predictive tool for spontaneous preterm birth, incorporating quantitative fetal fibronectin, in symptomatic women’ by Kuhrt et al is published in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology in February 2016 (DOI: 10.1002/uog.14894) and is accessible here.

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    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.

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