Predicting Premature Birth
September 18, 2012

Test Predicts Premature Births for Pregnant Females

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Scientists from Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden recently developed a test that can help predict whether a pregnant female could give birth prematurely, paving the way for the development of new options to prevent premature baby births.

With this study, the researchers believe that the findings are particularly helpful in determining the serious complications that may arise before the birth of babies. In particular, the test examined pregnant woman with preterm contractions, estimating whether or not these females would give birth seven days after the contractions. The findings, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, will help in the care for premature babies.

"To have time to give the woman cortisone, which speeds up the development of the fetal lungs, it is common practice to delay the delivery by a couple of days with the help of tocolytic treatment. Being able to predict if a woman who comes to the hospital with preterm contractions will actually give birth early and thereby requires follow-up and possible treatment is therefore very important," noted researcher Panagiotis Tsiartas, a specialist at the Obstetrical and Gynecological Clinic at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, in a prepared statement.

Preterm delivery, which is birth before the full 37 weeks, is currently one of the biggest issues in perinatal medicine. Researchers believe that early delivery can cause short-term and long-term harm to the child. As such, the team of investigators looked at a group of 142 pregnant women who arrived at Sahlgrenska University hospital between 1995 and 2005 with early contractions but no rupturing of the membranes.

The test was inspired by a newly created blood test that analyzes two specific proteins in the woman´s blood along with an exam that looks at an ultrasound to determine the cervix length of the mother.

“A combination of maternal serum proteins and cervical length constituted the best prediction model, and would help determine whether women with threatened preterm labor are likely to deliver within 7 days of measurement,” wrote the researchers in the article.

Based on the findings, the scientists were able to design a test that could estimate whether a female would give birth within seven days of having contractions.

"Statistically, the method can predict with 75 to 80 percent accuracy if a woman will give birth early," remarked Tsiartas in the statement. "We will need to conduct further studies before the method can be used in full, but if the results of these studies are good, the test will hopefully lead to new types of treatments to prevent premature birth and treat the serious complications resulting from it.”

According to the Scope Blog by the Stanford School of Medicine, each year, approximately 15 million babies are born prematurely in the world. Important growth and development happens throughout the stages of pregnancy. Those who are born earlier than the full 37 weeks have a higher chance of having health risks like breathing and respiratory problems, cerebral palsy, difficulty with vision and hearing, feeding and digestive issues, as well as intellectual disabilities.