Premature birth research projects

Around 53,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the UK. We are saving lives by researching the causes of premature birth and developing new treatments to prevent it.

Tommy’s premature birth research

Premature or preterm birth happens when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. In 2021, an estimated 53,000 babies were born prematurely in the UK. The percentage of live births that happen too soon varies significantly depending on the ethnicity of the baby – since data collection began in 2007, Black families in England and Wales have had higher rates of premature birth than any other ethnic group.

Read more premature birth statistics

Research is vital so that we can understand why some women and birthing people go into labour early. This will help us find new ways of treating them so they can carry their baby for as long as possible. 

Tommy’s have funded research into premature birth for over 30 years. Our researchers have already made some amazing discoveries to prevent premature birth and help more families take home a healthy baby. Now we have gone even further and opened Tommy’s National Centre for Preterm Birth Research. This collaborative research centre brings together world-renowned experts in premature birth research from 5 universities to deliver the step-change that is needed to reduce the number of babies born too soon in the UK and to give a new generation a better start in life.

Premature birth research highlights

  • Our researchers developed the QUiPP app, a clinical tool that uses test results and medical history to help doctors assess how likely it is that someone will give birth prematurely. This means treatment can be given to those who are found to be at risk of going into early labour.
  • In the MAVRIC study, our team found that inserting a cervical stitch – or cerclage – through the abdomen can prevent more premature births and save more babies’ lives than a stitch inserted through the vagina, when used to treat women and birthing people who previously had a failed vaginal stitch.
  • Our researchers are using mechanobiology – an emerging field of science that explores how physical forces affect the function of cells within the body – to explore the mechanisms that cause labour to start, and how these might be going wrong in premature birth.
  • Our team are analysing the conversations that take place between doctors and parents during premature labour. This highly stressful situation can be made worse by the need to make urgent decisions under considerable time pressure and our team want to find out which approaches to communication best allow parents to express their preferences.

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