Premature birth research

Around 53,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the UK. We are saving lives by researching how we can prevent premature births by finding those at risk early on.

Finding the reasons for premature birth

Tommy’s premature birth research

Premature or preterm birth is when a baby is born before 37 full weeks of pregnancy. In 2021, approximately 53,000 babies were born preterm in the UK.

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. 

Premature birth research highlights

  • Developed the QUiPP app, a tool that accurately predicts preterm birth in pregnant women. This allows doctors to concentrate treatment and resources on those who are shown to be more likely to go into early labour.
  • Our researchers have identified that inserting a stitch through the abdomen, high up in the cervix, is much more effective in preventing premature births and saving babies’ lives compared to previous treatments. The new treatment resulted in 35 out of 37 babies surviving. This compares to a survival rate of approximately 50% with previous treatments.
  • 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 have achieved a 23% reduction in premature births in high risk women attending our London preterm birth clinic (compared to the previous year)
  • 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.

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