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Hope for quick test for preterm birth risk

Wednesday July 22nd, 2009

A new and simple technique can predict a woman's risk of early preterm labour, researchers report today.

The team from University College London and King's College London, UK, carried out a study on preventive treatments for preterm birth.

They took weekly saliva samples from 92 high-risk pregnant women from 24 weeks gestation until 34 weeks or delivery.

Analysis showed that the concentration of the hormone progesterone in saliva was significantly lower among women who gave birth before 34 weeks. This reduced hormone level was seen in all of the samples from 24 weeks onwards.

Progesterone is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, say the team, so low levels could place the woman at risk of infections that may trigger preterm labour.

The experts hope that their findings could lead to an effective test of early preterm labour risk. Details are published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Researcher Professor Lucilla Poston said: "This very interesting study backs up previous research which hinted at the importance of low saliva progesterone as a marker for labour onset.

"We are now planning a much larger study to validate these preliminary findings. Saliva is easy to collect, there is no need for a needle or a blood sample and it would be wonderful if in the future we only had to ask a pregnant woman to produce a small sample of saliva to know whether or not she was at risk of very early premature birth."

The research was partly funded by Tommy's, the baby charity. Jane Brewin of Tommy's said: "We are delighted with the results of this initial study."

Lachelin, G. et al. Low saliva progesterone concentrations are associated with spontaneous early preterm labour (before 34 weeks of gestation) in women at increased risk of preterm delivery. BJOG 2009 (in press).

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Nursing & Midwifery | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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