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Preterm birth clinic

Read our guide below about our preterm birth clinic.

You can also download a PDF version of this patient information by following the link on the right.

What is the preterm birth clinic?

It’s a specialist clinic which monitors and treats women who might be at a higher risk of preterm (premature) birth between 24 and 34 weeks of pregnancy, or late miscarriage (16 to 24 weeks). A consultant in fetal medicine and obstetrics runs the clinic.

Why have I been referred here?

You have one or more risk factors for premature birth or late miscarriage in your current pregnancy. These may include:

  • one or more previous preterm births or late miscarriages
  • premature rupture of the membranes (bag of water) in a previous pregnancy
  • previous surgery to your cervix (neck of the womb)
  • a short cervix found during a scan in this or a previous pregnancy
  • an abnormally shaped uterus (womb)
  • a cervical cerclage (stitch around the neck of your womb).

If you have one or more of these risk factors, it does not necessarily mean you will have a premature birth or late miscarriage.

What does the preterm birth clinic do?

It helps reduce your chance of preterm birth or late miscarriage.

We look at:

  • what happened during your previous pregnancy
  • the results of the tests you have in the clinic to find out if you’re at high risk of it happening again
  • whether you are likely to benefit from treatment or interventions.

We’ll discuss your individual care plan with you at your first visit.

What happens in the preterm birth clinic?

You have an individual care plan because not all treatments are appropriate or effective for all women. Your plan includes what may happen if something changes while we monitor you. We’ll also provide you with support and reassurance during what may be an anxious time.

While there’s evidence to suggest monitoring and treatment can reduce your risk, not all miscarriages and preterm births can be prevented.

What tests will I have?

Depending on your risk factors, we’ll offer you one or more of investigations.

Transvaginal scan

We put an ultrasound probe into your vagina to measure the length of your cervix. A short cervix increases your risk of a late miscarriage or premature birth.

Vaginal swab fetal fibronectin (fFN)

A negative result on the fFN test means it’s highly unlikely you’ll give birth in the next week or two, which can set your mind at ease. A positive result does not mean you’ll give birth early but you’re at higher risk of this happening. If you have a positive result your care we’ll review your care plan with you.

A urine test and/or a vaginal swab

This is to check for infection as some infections can make a late miscarriage or premature birth more likely.

Do the tests have any risks?

All of these tests are safe for you and your baby.

What treatment will I be offered if I am high risk of preterm birth or late miscarriage?

There are a number of treatments which we may offer you up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. These include:

  • a cervical cerclage, where a stitch is put around the neck of your womb
  • progesterone (hormone) pessaries which you put into your vagina
  • antibiotics to treat any infection.

If you’re at high risk after 24 weeks of pregnancy, we may offer you steroid injections to help your baby’s lungs develop.

If you’d like to know more about any of these treatments, ask a member of the team for information.

Do I still need to see my midwife or obstetrician while I come to this clinic?

You’ll see a midwife and obstetrician at each visit. They’ll provide all your antenatal care whilst you come to the clinic. It’s not necessary to make separate appointments unless you’d prefer to do this.

Who can I contact with queries and concerns?

Contact the lead consultant for the clinic or one of her team, via the antenatal clinic (see contact details below). Your obstetrician or midwife may also answer any questions you have about your treatment.

Reducing associated healthcare infections

Find out how you can help to reduce healthcare associated infections when visiting hospital

About our patient information pages and leaflets

This patient advice is intended as general information only. We aim to make the information as up to date and accurate as possible, but please note that it is subject to change.

Always check specific advice on any concerns you may have with your doctor.

Contact us

Antenatal Clinic - Stoke Mandeville Hospital
Antenatal Clinic - Wycombe Hospital
Antenatal Clinic - Stoke Mandeville Hospital

01296 316227

Antenatal Clinic - Wycombe Hospital

01494 425575