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Primary predictors of preterm labour

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Spontaneous preterm birth accounts for 60% of all preterm births in developed countries. With the increase in multiple pregnancies, induced preterm birth and the progress in neonatal care for extremely preterm neonates, spontaneous preterm birth for singleton pregnancies in developed countries has probably decreased over the past 30 years. This decrease is likely to be related to better prenatal care for all pregnant women because the recognition of primary risk factors in early or late pregnancy remains a basic part of prenatal care. The failure to distinguish between induced and spontaneous preterm labour in most population-based studies makes it difficult to interpret results with respect to the primary predictors of preterm labour. Many such primary predictors of preterm labour have been used over the past 20–30 years. These include individual factors, socio-economic factors, working conditions and obstetric and gynaecological history. Risk scores have been proposed in order to produce these data. Unfortunately, the predictive value of these scores, especially their specificity, is poor, mainly because all of these factors are indirect. We still cannot identify the mechanisms that lead to preterm labour and birth. New markers more directly related to preterm labour have recently been proposed, some of which relate to direct causes of preterm labour such as cervical ultrasound measurement, fetal fibronectin (FFN), salivary estriol, serum CRH and bacterial vaginosis. Several of these have predictive values, which are potentially useful for clinical practice. Nonetheless, pregnant women in developed countries are already closely monitored throughout pregnancy. Before proposing new screening tests to be applied systematically to all pregnant women, their advantages and drawbacks must be fully evaluated.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-03-01

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