Why does cervical damage cause preterm labour?

Scientists think that damage to the cervix makes it easier for infections to travel to the womb, resulting in preterm labour. Our researchers have developed a new way to study how this happens, so that we can prevent premature birth and problems it causes.
  • Authors list

    Ioannis Pavlidis, Sara Rinaldi, Heather MacPherson, Jane Norman, Sarah Stock

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

This research study is now complete

Start: 2015

End: 2018

Why do we need this research?

The cervix is important in making sure a baby isn’t born too early. It not only keeps the baby inside the womb until labour, but also helps stop infections from entering the womb and hurting the baby. We already know that premature birth can be a result of something going wrong with the cervix. However, at the moment we’re not sure how the cervix normally works to stop the baby from being born too soon.

What’s happening in this project?

As a first step to help us understand more about the cervix’s role in humans, researchers supported by Tommy’s are looking at pregnancies in mice. In this project, our scientists developed a new way to study in mice how the cervix is involved in premature birth. By damaging cells in the cervixes of pregnant mice, the team believed that the mice would be less able to stop infections from entering the womb, and that they will then give birth early.

Our scientists showed for the first time that damage to the cervix does increases infections that are known to be linked to preterm birth. This information is crucial to help develop new treatments to prevent this from happening.=

What difference will this project make?

This project has provided new insights about how the cervix stops infections from reaching the womb, and so prevents premature birth. This will help our researchers develop better tools to identify which women are at risk of preterm labour. It could also lead to treatments to better manage and potentially stop babies being born too early.

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