A new app can help doctors better identify women at risk of giving birth prematurely. Called QuiPP, the app developed at King's College London was tested in two studies of high-risk women being monitored at the clinics.
The app uses an algorithm which combines the gestation of previous pregnancies and the length of the cervix with levels of fetal fibronectin to classify a woman's risk.
The first study focused on women deemed to be a high risk of preterm birth usually because of a previous early pregnancy, despite not showing any symptoms.
The second study predicted the likelihood of early delivery in a group of women showing symptoms of early labour which often doesn't progress to real labour.
"Doctors need reliable ways of predicting whether a woman is at risk of giving birth early. It can be difficult to accurately assess a woman's risk, given that many women who show symptoms of preterm labour do not go on to deliver early," said professor Andrew Shennan, lead author and professor of obstetrics at King's College London.
In the first study, published in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers collected data from 1,249 women at high risk for pre-term birth attending pre-term surveillance clinics.
The model was developed on the first 624 consecutive women and validated on the subsequent 625.
In the second study, also published in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology, data from 382 high-risk women was collected.
The model was developed on the first 190 women and validated on the remaining 192.
In both studies, the app was found to perform well as a predictive tool and far better than each component (previous pregnancy, cervical length or fetal fibronectin) taken alone.
"The app can be used by clinicians to improve the estimation of the probability of premature delivery (before 34 weeks' gestation or within two weeks of the fetal fibronectin test) and to potentially tailor clinical management decisions," the authors noted.
"The more accurately we can predict her risk, the better we can manage a woman's pregnancy to ensure the safest possible birth for her and her baby," Shennan said.
Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 weeks) each year and over a million of these die of prematurity-related complications.
QUiPP is available to download for free from the Apple store.