Using an abdominal stitch to reduce preterm birth

Our researchers have found that women receiving the abdominal stitch instead of the traditional vaginal stitch were more likely to have a baby that survived, and less likely to give birth before 32 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Authors list

    Professor Andrew Shennan, Dr Annette Briley, Mr Paul Seed, Mrs Jenny Carter

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Completed projects

This project took place at our London centre which operated between 1995 and 2021.

In pregnancy, the cervix helps to keep the baby in the womb, as well as protecting the womb - and the baby - from infection. A weak cervix may lead to premature birth or late miscarriage. As pregnancy progresses the cervix gradually opens until there is no longer enough support to keep the baby in the womb.

To counteract a weak cervix, ‘stitches’ are often inserted in a process known as a cervical cerclage.

The stitch can be put in in two ways: either through the abdomen or the vagina. Mostly, the vaginal route is used as it is less invasive and there is a lower risk of complications. However, some women still miscarry or have early deliveries even though they have had a stitch put in. Only 1 out of 25 vaginal cerclages actually prevent premature delivery.

We didn't understand why this method worked for some women and not for others and how effective the stitches were in comparison with each other.

The MAVRIC study was a randomised trial designed to see if the abdominal or cervical stitch was more effective at stopping premature birth and improving a baby's chances. 

Positioning of vaginal and abdominal cervical stitch to prevent preterm birth

Abdominal stitch proved highly successful at preventing preterm birth

The MAVRIC study is now complete. We found that women who had an abdominal stitch were more likely to have a baby that survived, as well as one born after 32 weeks of pregnancy.

Only four women would have to receive the treatment to save a life.

Following these results the team involved, led by Professor Shennan, have recommended that women who have had failed vaginal stitches should be given the abdominal stitch as a more effective method. Medical specialists should also be trained in how to perform the procedure. 

Read our news article about the MAVRIC trial and results

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This study took place in a Tommy's centre and was funded by Tommy's, the Moulton Charitable Foundation, and the National Institute for Health Research's Clinical Research Network