LONDON, March 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- For most mums-to-be wondering when your baby is going to arrive is a cause for excited speculation; but for those at risk of delivering early it can be a source of great concern. However, a new screening test for both groups of women can offer all mums-to-be additional information about their likelihood of delivering early, and for most give them reassurance and confidence to enjoy their pregnancy.

The ground-breaking test, known as Premature Birth Screening, is the first to analyse known risk factors and screen for the chance of early delivery. It acts as an early warning system, particularly for those with a known risk of having a preterm birth. Suitable for women between 22 - 35 weeks of pregnancy, the screening gives healthcare teams an accurate prediction of delivery within the two weeks following testing, and further indication of whether delivery will be before 30 or 35 weeks (before full term). This prediction can then help tailor care to expectant mums' specific needs and give welcome reassurance to at-risk mums-to-be. The Premature Birth Screening has three components:

1. Review of medical history

2. Fetal Fibronectin test and cervical ultrasound

3. Analysis of the results from the fetal Fibronectin test, cervical ultrasound and medical history and discussion of any next steps

Whilst ultrasound and taking a medical history are common practice, fetal Fibronectin testing is available only in selected NHS hospitals. The Premature Birth Screening, which uses new technology in the form of specialist computer software, known as the Preterm Predictor, is the first to analyse all the elements, and is unique to The London Ultrasound Centre and to a research programme funded by the charity Tommy's that is currently underway at St Thomas' Hospital in London.

Mr Darryl Maxwell, Consultant Obstetrician, Gynaecologist and Medical Director of The London Ultrasound Centre, comments: "On its own, past obstetric history has not been a reliable predictor for preterm birth. The introduction of ultrasound and more recently fetal Fibronectin testing have been significant. Now, by combining all these elements using the Preterm Predictor we can offer the most accurate prediction to define the risk of early delivery. Mums-to-be who were known to be at risk before the screening are reassured, and treatment can be tailored to their individual needs."[1]

Professor Andrew Shennan, Consultant at The London Ultrasound Centre and lead researcher behind the Preterm Predictor and ongoing fetal Fibronectin research at St Thomas' Hospital, said: "Preterm births are on the increase, accounting for nearly 8% (1 in 13)[2] of babies born in the UK, and a major cause of neonatal death and development problems. Accurate prediction is an important step towards improving preterm baby outcomes through more effective and focused management."

For most parents not knowing exactly when baby will arrive is nothing more than an annoyance. However, for those at risk of an early delivery, the Premature Birth Screening service offers peace of mind and the confidence to enjoy the countdown to their new arrival.

Premature Birth Screening is one of many tests and scans available at The London Ultrasound Centre. The centre offers a comprehensive range of ultrasound scans for pregnancy and gynaecology, combining the most innovative ultrasound technology with a passion for the care of women.

Notes to Editors:

- Case studies and interviews with Mr Maxwell and Professor Shennan are available on request

Premature Birth Screening:

- For further information contact The London Ultrasound Centre on +44(0)20-7935-4450 or book an appointment online at

- Premature Birth Screening costs GBP400 at The London Ultrasound Centre

- For women with a negative result labour is not likely to begin in the 2 weeks after testing. For women with a positive result it is a good indicator that they may go into early labour in the 2 weeks after screening

- Premature Birth Screening consists of a review of medical history, ultrasound scan and a test for fetal Fibronectin - a glue-like protein found in the cervix in the lead-up to birth. When analysed using the Preterm Predictor, these can provide an accurate prediction of due date, with significant improvement of and impact on patient management[3]

- The Premature Birth Screening is not a diagnostic test. The test tries to identify low risk from high risk women but it cannot guarantee that women will not go into early labour

Preterm statistics

- Preterm babies are defined as those born before 37 weeks of gestation[2]

- Nearly 8% (1 in 13) of babies born in England and Wales are premature[2], requiring additional NHS care at a cost of GBP1 billion per year[4]. 75%-80% of all neonatal morbidity and mortality is due to prematurity[3]

- Preterm birth increases the risk of low birth weight, disability and lower academic attainment and can affect anyone regardless of their medical history or the number of babies they are carrying


1. Shennan et al. Does fetal Fibronectin testing change patient management in women at risk of preterm labour? European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology 2009; 146 (2): 180-3.

2. Premature birth statistics. Tommy's.

3. Furdon and David. Prematurity. Medscape 2010.

4. Mangham et al. The Cost of Preterm Birth Throughout Childhood in England and Wales. Pediatrics 2009; 123 (2): e312.

For further information, please contact: Rose Segal/Jan Petherick/Elizabeth Shearing Green at Say Communications Tel: +44(0)20-8971-6400 Email:;;