07/01/2021 | Press releases

Targeted support for mums-to-be at increased risk of premature labour

Pregnant women who are at risk of having a premature baby can now receive targeted support to reduce their chances of early delivery thanks to a specialist clinic at Ipswich Hospital.

The pre-term prevention clinic was launched this year to reduce the number of women delivering early, or losing their babies because of a late miscarriage.

It offers at risk women check-ups every two to four weeks so any changes which indicate they are likely to go into labour early can be picked up before they have symptoms. They can then be offered a range of different interventions to prolong the pregnancy, including hormone treatment or a small operation to hold the cervix closed.

All women booking their antenatal care at Ipswich now have an individualised risk assessment for pre-term birth. Staff are also encouraging women to ask their midwife for a referral to the clinic if they fall into one of the higher risk categories, which include having:

• a previous late miscarriage (after 14 weeks) or early delivery before 34 weeks
• a heart-shaped or bicornuate womb
• a history of surgery for cervical cancer or pre-cancer
• a previous caesarean at full dilatation

Miss Joanna Cook, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology and lead for pre-term birth and early pregnancy, said: “This specialist service ensures that women at increased risk of premature delivery are closely monitored until six months (24 weeks) into their pregnancy so that we can detect any changes in the neck of the womb early on. We can then offer treatment to prolong the woman’s pregnancy or, if that is not possible plan for early delivery in the best place.

“As we see these women so regularly, we are able to provide continuity of care and emotional support where necessary, which can be particularly important during a complex pregnancy. We also offer screening tests for infections associated with early labour and support and advice to help mums-to-be to stop smoking, which can also reduce the chances of an early delivery.

“By adopting this holistic approach, our aim is to provide the best possible evidence based care and outcomes for both mum and baby.”

Miss Cook and fetal medicine specialist Mr Nishi Deole (pictured above), who run the weekly clinics in Ipswich, are now working with colleagues at Colchester Hospital to introduce a similar service for pregnant women in north Essex.

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