Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Blood Test Predicts Early Labour

A new blood test can predict whether women showing signs of early labour will go on to give birth too soon.

An international research team has reported in PLOS ONE that the blood test can distinguish between true and false labour in 70% of cases. “About 5% of women with signs of early labour give birth within 10 days, but until now there hasn’t been a reliable test to determine whether women having early contractions will go on to deliver their babies early,” said co-author A/Prof Craig Pennell of The University of WA.

The blood test is based on screening for genetic signs linked to the start of labour. “What we’ve found is that markers in the blood of women in threatened pre-term labour are able to show whether these women will give birth within 48 hours,” he said.

Pennell said that pre-term birth (before 37 weeks) occurred in up to 11% of pregnancies worldwide, and was the main cause of death and disease in unborn babies in the developed world.

“Although medical advances have increased the survival rates of premature babies, they remain vulnerable to respiratory disorders, cognitive impairment, blindness and deafness,” he said. “In later life they may also face complications such as motor and sensory impairment, learning difficulties and behavioural issues.”

The blood test could be available within 5 years.