Trust supports new research to prevent premature births


Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is supporting new research that could lead to a reduction in the number of babies that are born prematurely.

Preterm delivery (delivery before the 34th week of pregnancy) is the biggest single cause of death and disability amongst babies born in the UK and at present there is no treatment that has been proven to prevent the onset of pre-term labour.  However, recent findings have shown that a natural hormone called progesterone may reduce the risk of preterm delivery by around 50% and research currently underway at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals is trialling the use of progesterone to prevent pre-term labour.

Katrina Rigby, a research midwife at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is leading this research at the trust.  She said:”Pregnant women can have a screening test between their 22nd and 24th week of pregnancy which identifies whether they are at high risk of preterm delivery.  They will then will be given either a progesterone or a placebo pessary every day until their 34th week of pregnancy.  We hope to show that progesterone treatment reduces the risk of preterm birth and that it will improve the baby’s immediate and longer-term health, including the thinking ability of the child at two years old.”

The research is a randomised double blind placebo controlled trial, which means that the mums will either receive progesterone or a placebo, but neither they nor hospital staff will know which they are receiving to ensure that the results are not influenced.

Joanne Higgins, age 33, from Bamber Bridge is one of the local mums who have been involved with the trial and gave birth to a baby boy, Max, on 31 January. She said:”My first baby was born when I was just 23 weeks into my pregnancy and sadly died less than two weeks later.  My second child, Katie, who is now four years old, was also born early at 36 weeks, so when I was offered the chance to be involved with this trial I was really keen.  I had to insert a pessary into my cervix every night from my 23rd week of pregnancy; I don’t know if it was the placebo or the progesterone pessary, but I got further in this pregnancy than I ever have before, so it was a good result for me and my baby.  Throughout the trial, I felt very informed about what was going on and I was always able to speak to a midwife about any questions I had.  I think research like this is really important and having gone through the experience of losing a baby as a result of premature birth, I feel that if my involvement in the trial helps prevent one other person going through what I did it will have been worthwhile.”

Karen Partington, Chief Executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, said:”We are involved with a wide range of medical research programmes and clinical trials that will lead to improved treatment and new medicines for patients.  Leading improvements in healthcare through innovation, research and education is a key part of what we do at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals and I am very excited about the potential of this new treatment to help us provide the best possible outcome for pregnant women and their babies.”