New research has suggested that pregnant women with low levels of the hormone progesterone may be more likely to have a premature birth.
A team from the University College London and King's College London found a combination of tests, including a simple saliva swab, could help identify women at risk of delivering their baby early.
Supplements could be used to top up levels of the hormone, which stops the womb from contracting and helps women to carry babies to term.
Mothers who gave birth before 34 weeks' gestation had far lower levels of progesterone than those who carried their baby to term (37 weeks), according to the new research.
As part of the study, saliva samples from 28 women who gave birth before 37 weeks and 64 who delivered at term were analysed, all were thought to be at risk of premature birth.
Progesterone was lower in the 12 women who gave birth before 34 weeks when compared to those whose babies were born after 34 weeks.
The women who gave birth before 34 week also did not experience a rise in levels of the hormone during their pregnancy as normal.
Copyright © Press Association 2009
University College London
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