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Secondary predictors of preterm labour

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In addition to primary predictors of preterm birth which are used to estimate the baseline risk of preterm birth, secondary predictors (based on examinations done during the current pregnancy) allow a more accurate assessment of the risk of preterm birth in individual women. Screening for early signs of spontaneous preterm labour has always been an important topic in obstetric care. During the last two decades, the detection of fetal fibronectin (FFN) from cervicovaginal secretions and cervical shortening diagnosed by transvaginal ultrasonography have emerged as the major secondary predictors of preterm birth. Both markers have been extensively studied and consistently shown to be strong short term predictors of preterm birth across a wide range of gestational ages. Other secondary predictors that confirm the role of intrauterine infection in the pathogenesis of preterm birth are bacterial vaginosis (BV) and elevated levels of interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, ferritin and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor. Apart from BV, inflammatory markers are still not routinely used. The sensitivity of single markers in predicting preterm birth is only moderate and serial examinations of markers, combinations of different markers and multiple marker tests have been studied, with limited results. Studies of interventions in order to prevent preterm birth have also yielded mixed benefits, as a consequence of which the use of these markers to screen low risk pregnancies is generally not recommended. Currently, secondary predictors of preterm birth are used mainly to design new intervention studies tailored to specific high risk populations and to avoid unnecessary interventions in the management of high risk women.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-03-01

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