About Preterm Birth

The incidence of preterm birth continues to rise worldwide. In the UK, 7.8% of babies are born prematurely (<37 weeks) which accounts to approximately 60,000 births per year.¹

  • The risk factors for preterm birth


    The causes of preterm births are not fully understood, although there are some related risk factors.2

    Traditional risk factors include:2
    • Previous preterm birth
    • Multiple pregnancy
    • Preterm premature rupture of membranes
    • Problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta

    If you would like to learn more about how to understand the true risk of patients with traditional risk factors please go to: How fFN testing can help

  • The symptoms of preterm labour


    In some cases, it is unclear why labour starts early, although there is a greater chance of this happening for women who have had a preterm baby or a late miscarriage before.3 It is important to be aware and educate your patients about the symptoms of preterm labour.

    The signs of premature labour can be similar to the signs of labour that starts at full term and this can include;4

    • Contractions
    • Period-type pains
    • A "show" (when the plug of mucus that has sealed the cervix during pregnancy comes away and out of the vagina)
    • Rupture of membranes – this can be a gush or a trickle
    • Backache

    When a patient is experiencing symptoms of preterm labour, you need to determine if her risk of preterm birth is real or perhaps quite low. In the UK, 140,000 women exhibit signs and symptoms of preterm labour per year but less than 5% go on to deliver within 14 days.5

    Fetal fibronectin (fFN) testing can precisely measure your patient’s true risk of preterm labour and allow you to provide the right care.



  1. Guys’ and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. 2012 news items. Simple test will help predict and prevent premature births. November 2012. Available at: https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/news-and-events/2012-news/20121116-predict-prevent-premature-births.aspx
  2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Diagnostic consultation document. March 2018. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/gid-dg10017/documents/diagnostics-consultation-document
  3. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Preterm labour and birth guidance. Published November 2015. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng25/chapter/recommendations#diagnosing-preterm-labour-for-women-with-intact-membranes
  4. NHS choices. Premature labour and birth. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/premature-early-labour/
  5. ACOG Technical Bulletin, 1995, No. 206; National Vital Statistics Report 2000;48(3)
  6. World Health Organisation (WHO). Preterm birth factsheet. February 2018. Available at: http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/preterm-birth 

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