Predicting time until birth after waters have broken early

If a mother’s waters break early, it can sometimes lead to the baby being born early, but it is difficult to predict exactly when. We’re funding research to help doctors accurately predict time until birth and ensure that premature babies get the best possible start in life.
  • Authors list

    Dr Elizabeth Wastnedge, Dr Anna King, Dr Sarah Stock

    Start date: 2019

This project took place at our Edinburgh centre which operated between 2008 and 2021.

Why do we need this research?

Preterm prelabour rupture of membranes – or PPROM – happens when a pregnant woman’s waters break before 37 weeks of pregnancy and before labour starts. Although doctors try to prolong pregnancy as long as possible following PPROM, babies are often born prematurely, which can leave them with life-long health problems.

Babies that are born early are at high risk of having breathing problems as their lungs are not yet mature enough to breathe independently. Drugs called corticosteroids can be used to help the lungs mature, but they only work if they are given within seven days of birth. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for doctors to predict exactly when a baby will be born following PPROM, with births often occurring more than a week after rupture of the membranes. 

We need to be able to predict the time of birth more accurately so that we can treat PPROM better and reduce the chance of health problems for premature babies.

What’s happening in this project?

Researchers funded by Tommy’s are trying to find ways to help doctors predict when a baby will be born after PPROM. To do this, our researchers will be extracting anonymous data from the health records of mothers who experienced PPROM. Using this information, the team will develop a tool that would allow doctors to work out the chances of a baby being born within the next week – the critical timeframe for giving corticosteroids. This will help doctors determine the best time to give corticosteroids to the mother in order to help her baby’s lungs mature in time for birth.

What difference will this project make?

The results from this project will help doctors to predict when a baby will be born after PPROM. This will help mothers get the right treatment at the right time, thus reducing the risk of health complications for women and their babies.

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