Research into premature birth

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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Premature or preterm birth is when a baby is born before 37 full weeks of pregnancy. 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.

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.
  • Scientists have found that drugs normally used to prevent heart disease may delay preterm birth.

1. WHO (2012) Country data and rankings for preterm birth 2012, World Health Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland, http://www.who.int/pmnch/media/news/2012/201204_borntoosoon_countryranking.pdf

2. WHO (2017) Preterm birth fact sheet 2017, World Health Organisation, Geneva Switzerland, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs363/en/