At a glance
Premature birth screening helps identify if you are at risk of an early delivery.
- Identifies the risk of premature labour
- Offers reassurance if you are travelling late in pregnancy
- Appointments available at short notice
- No GP referral required
- Service not generally available on the NHS
- Screening performed by a highly trained consultant
- Tuesday and Friday clinics
- Convenient central London location
You will receive
- Results in 48 hours
- Two-page clinical report
What happens with your results?
Your premature birth screening results are available 48 hours after your appointment and will be included in a detailed report, which we will send to you and your GP, Obstetrician or midwife, if you desire.
What is it?
A premature birth screening, or preterm labour test, is actually a series of tests that combine to predict if you are likely to go into labour early.
It does not give a definite answer, but tries to identify low risk from high risk women and it can only be performed between 22 and 35 weeks of pregnancy.
A premature birth screening may also be called a preterm labour screening, preterm birth screening, early labour assessment, early labour prediction, preterm birth screening (PTBS) or premature baby prediction.
Am I at risk of an early delivery?
Any woman can have a premature birth, but you may be at more risk if:
- You’ve delivered a preterm baby in the past
- You’ve had an operation on your cervix
- You are having more than one baby
Why would I need a premature birth screening?
There are several important reasons why you may want a premature birth screening, or it could just be for reassurance.
- You are experiencing contractions which seem like labour but they do not progress
- You may need to travel for business or pleasure, but you don’t want to deliver the baby away from home
- Your partner may need to travel for business, but does not want to be away when you deliver the baby
Avoiding premature labour and premature birth
It’s important to avoid a premature birth because premature babies are less able to cope with life outside the womb.
Around 6-10% of babies in the UK are born premature and out of all babies who die within the newborn period, 75% are premature.
Prematurity is the main reason for admissions to neonatal intensive care units and is the leading cause of damage in newborn babies.
Signs of an early labour
These early signs of labour that may lead to a premature birth.
- A tightening or cramping pain that occurs every 10 minutes or more frequently
- Bleeding combined with a pink mucous discharge
- Back or pelvic pain which feels like downward pressure from your baby
If you are at all worried it’s important that you speak to your consultant or midwife.
What happens during the premature birth screening?
During this appointment our fetal medicine specialist will:
- Analyse your previous medical and pregnancy history
- Discuss the possible outcome of the screening
- Perform an ultrasound assessment of your cervix
- Take a vaginal swab for fetal fibronectin
- Give you a detailed report from our Viewpoint Maternal and Fetal Database
- Discuss the findings with you
- Forward the report to you obstetrician or midwife
Predicting when a pregnant woman will go into premature labour is a complex process and some details in your medical history may provide the consultant with additional information that may influence your risk of a premature birth.
The cervical scan
Research has shown that if the cervical length shortens the risk of premature birth increases significantly. We measure the length of your cervix by an internal ultrasound examination, this allows for optimum accuracy in estimating the chance of early labour. Read more
The Fibronectin Test
This test looks for the presence of a substance called fetal fibronectin in middle pregnancy. If fibronectin is present the chance of going into early labour rises. If fibronectin is not present the chance of early labour lessens significantly. Find out more about the fibronectin test
How accurate is a premature birth screening?
Premature birth screening is a relatively new science, so there is insufficient data to publish any figures, however, it is better at identifying those women who will not go into early labour than those who will.
If you test screen-negative, you should be reassured that early labour is not likely to begin in the two weeks after testing.
If you test screen-positive, the result is a good indicator that you may go into early labour in the two weeks after testing.
What happens if you get a positive result?
Depending on your particular outcome from the premature birth screening, your obstetrician or midwife may decide to:
- Admit you to hospital
- Prescribe therapeutic steroid injections to help your baby prepare for premature birth
- Transfer your birth to a specialist hospital if existing facilities are not adequate to care for premature babies