Premature baby test proves a success at DGH

A TRAILBLAZING test which helps predict premature births is proving a success at the DGH.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Eastbourne hospital and its sister site in Hastings, has recently started using the procedure, called fetal fibronectin.

The testing shows the likelihood of a woman who is experiencing labour pains before 35 weeks of pregnancy giving birth within the following two weeks.

And health experts say it helps ensure mums-to-be do not stay in hospital unnecessarily or receive drugs and treatment which they may not have needed.

The DGH was among the first places in Sussex to start using the relatively new test, which has since been introduced in hospital across the south east.

Dr Nicky Roberts, the obstetrics and gynaecology consultant who introduced the test, said, “This has a huge clinical benefit for women and their families.

“Before the introduction of the test, women experiencing contractions between 23-34 weeks of pregnancy were kept in hospital, given treatment to stop labour and often transferred to another hospital where the special care baby unit could look after babies born too soon. The vast majority of these women however would not deliver early.

“With this test, we now know the chance of an early delivery much better than we did so we can target the treatment to those women who really need it. If the test is negative, those women can be discharged home and they are not treated unnecessarily, which helps our maternity units to be more efficient.”

The test works by measuring whether the protein fetal fibronectin is present in women before 34 weeks of pregnancy.

Fetal fibronectin is a glue-like substance which bonds the membranes around the baby to the uterus. It can be found at the very beginning of pregnancy and at the end but it should not be present between 23-34 weeks of pregnancy.

If it is present, it can mean the body is getting ready to have a baby.

The test is done by the bedside and the results take just 25 minutes to be produced.

Dr Roberts said: “If the results of the test show there is no fetal fibronectin present then the woman has a less than one in a 100 chance of giving birth within the following two weeks. If the result shows it is present then they have a one in six chance of delivering early. This means we have a good idea of how likely it is that a baby could be born prematurely with this test.

“In the first year of carrying out the test, 91 per cent came back as negative, with most of the women going on to deliver two months later.

“We also avoided hospital admission in 82 per cent of women tested, so it shows just how much of a positive impact it has made on pregnant women and their families.”