New "model" better at predicting premature birth

Research on a new testing method which could more accurately identify women at risk of preterm birth and potentially improve healthcare outcomes for mums and babies in the future was published in PLOS Medicine this summer.

Photo of pregnant woman

Health Economics and Health Technology Assessment's Kathleen Boyd and Robert Heggie were co-authors on the study, leading the economic analysis.

The study found that carrying vaginal fluid foetal fibronectin (fFN) concentration testing in conjunction with assessing clinical risk factors was more effective at predicting birth before 37 weeks than testing alone. The economic analysis found the prognostic model was cost effective, compared to using qualitative fFN, at a threshold for hospital admission and treatment of ≥2% risk of preterm birth within 7 days.

Foetal fibronectin is a protein found between the amniotic sac and the lining of the uterus. Testing the concentration of this protein in vaginal fluid is a method normally used by doctors to identify women at who may give birth early.

That study concluded:

"The risk prediction model showed promising performance in the prediction of spontaneous preterm birth within seven days of testing and can be used as part of a decision support tool to help guide management decisions for women at risk of preterm labour. It is readily implementable, with potential for immediate benefit to women and babies and health services, through avoidance of unnecessary admission and treatment."

The study was led by Sarah Jane Stock at the University of Edinburgh and was funded by the NIHR HTA programme.

Development and validation of a risk prediction model of preterm birth for women with preterm labour symptoms (the QUIDS study): A prospective cohort study and individual participant data meta-analysis


First published: 14 March 2018

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