In the UK around 1 in 10 babies will be born prematurely, meaning before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Babies who are born prematurely can face additional challenges in adapting to life outside the womb, with some very premature babies experiencing complications as a result of their early birth. There is a group of women who are identified as being at higher chance of having a premature birth, these include:
- Women who have a different shaped womb/cervix or any abnormality of the womb/cervix
- Women who have history of any surgery to the cervix, a LLETZ procedure or Cone Biopsy
- Women who have previously given birth spontaneously before 34 weeks, or whose waters have broken before 34 weeks
- Anyone who has lost a baby between 16-24 weeks of pregnancy
- Women who have been identified as having a short cervix in their current pregnancy
- Anyone who has previously had a cervical or abdominal stitch (sometimes called a suture or cerclage), or have one in their current pregnancy
Your Midwife or Doctor will identify at booking if you fall into one of these groups and make a referral for you to be seen in the Preterm Clinic by the team. At your appointment you will be offered additional Vaginal Ultrasound scans, until 24 weeks of pregnancy, to measure the length of your cervix (neck of the womb). If there are any concerns with the length or any shortening of your cervix over time, then treatment options- such as Progesterone pessaries or a Cervical stitch will be discussed with you and offered where appropriate. A urine test and vaginal swab will be taken and sent to the laboratory on each visit to check for any infections that can be treated.