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RCOG release: New patient information published on managing premature labour and cervical suture

News 29 October 2014

New patient information on premature labour and how in some cases the risk of going into premature labour can be reduced by a cervical suture are explored in two new Patient Information leaflets published today by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

Premature labour is when regular contractions start before 37 weeks of pregnancy. In the UK, having a baby early is common: eight in 100 babies are born before 37 weeks. Very premature birth is much less common however, with fewer than one in 100 babies being born at between 22 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Looking at what premature birth means for the baby, the new information states that premature babies have an increased risk of health problems, particularly with breathing, feeding and infection and there may be a need for the baby to be looked after in a neonatal unit.

However, more than eight out of ten premature babies born after 28 weeks survive and only a small number will have serious long-term disability.

The causes of premature birth are not always known, however, there are risk factors including the waters breaking early, a previous premature birth, a previous late miscarriage, vaginal bleeding after 14 weeks in pregnancy, multiple birth and smoking.

The Patient Information advises what to do if a woman thinks she may be going into labour early and explains what happens if she is admitted to hospital and suspected to be in premature labour.

It also considers whether premature labour can be prevented. This is covered in more detail in the second Patient Information leaflet on cervical suture (stitch), an operation where a suture is placed around the cervix, which can in some circumstances help reduce the risk of having a baby early.

The information states that a cervical suture may be recommended for women who have had previous late miscarriages or premature births. It is usually done between 12 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Chair of the RCOG’s Patient Information Committee, Philippa Marsden, said:

“Having a baby early can be worrying and distressing for parents. For a lot of women the cause of premature labour is unknown, however, there are certain factors that increase the risk. This information explains what happens if a woman is suspected of being in premature labour and measures that can be taken to reduce the risks from being born prematurely”.

“It is worth remembering that not all women will be in premature labour and after a period of observation will usually be able to go home”.

“If women have any concerns they should talk to their doctor or midwife who will be happy to discuss anything and give you information about support groups that may be helpful.”

Cath Broderick, Chair of the RCOG Women’s Network added:

“These new patient information leaflets provide valuable advice for women and their families who are affected by or concerned by having a premature baby. Women and families are naturally worried at a time like this and the information provides clear advice on what to expect and what care you may receive.”


For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email


This information has been developed by the RCOG Patient Information Committee. It is based on the