July 22, 2009
A simple saliva test could help spot which expectant women are likely to go into premature labour, experts believe.
Early identification would enable these mothers to be given steroids which help in the development of the baby’s lungs, preventing disability and death.
UK researchers found women going into labour very early, before 34 weeks gestation, had abnormally low progesterone levels in their saliva.
Their study appears in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Each year in the UK more than 50,000 babies are born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, and the condition is still not well understood.
It would be wonderful if in the future we only had to ask a pregnant woman to produce a small sample of saliva to know whether or not she was at risk
Lead researcher Professor Lucilla Poston
Experts suspect that the hormone progesterone plays some part and studies are underway to test whether giving women more of this hormone during pregnancy cuts the risk of a preterm birth.
The latest work by researchers at University College London and King’s College London, suggests monitoring progesterone levels in saliva could provide a cheap and convenient early marker for the condition.