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Mothers being tested for premature birth risk

11 June 2018 09:02

The tests are as accurate as those predicting a due date

The tests are as accurate as those predicting a due date

Scientists are trialling blood tests to find out the risk expecting mothers have of delivering prematurely.

The team of researchers, from Stanford University in the US, say the tests are as accurate as those predicting the due date.

80% accurate

Preliminary results, published in the Science journal, have shown to be 80% accurate, although much more testing needs to be undertaken before the tests can be used clinically.

If eventually released for clinical use, the test would mark a milestone development in understanding why some births are premature and in preventing premature births - the leading cause of death in children under the age of five.

The researchers carry out the tests by taking blood samples from pregnant women each week, to analyse changes in their RNA during their pregnancy. The activity of RNA can be used to predict gestational age or premature birth.

It can also be used to predict premature birth up to two months ahead of labour starting.

"Healthier babies, healthier pregnancies"

The tests were trialled on two groups of women. In one group, it was accurate six out of eight times, and in the other, four out of five.

Mira Moufarrej, one of the researchers, said she was "really excited" about the potential of the tests.

She added: "If we can use a mother's blood to make healthcare more accessible and affordable to people that don't have access to ultrasounds, then hopefully that means healthier babies and healthier pregnancies."

She went on to emphasise that this is still only in trial stage, and that much larger trials needed to be undertaken to confirm the accuracy of the tests.

Prof Basky Thilaganathan, a Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists spokesman, said: "Complications from premature birth are a leading cause of infant mortality and affect 7-8% of all births in the UK.

"However, the number of cases in the study were small and the accuracy of prediction was poor for premature birth.

"More research is needed to confirm the findings before it can be considered in clinical settings."

Expecting parents should take out tailored pregnancy travel insurance before jetting off.