Around 1 in 18 babies in the UK is born prematurely (before 32 weeks gestation). This increases the risk of handicap in the baby, and is a major cause of infant deaths . There are 8,000 preterm births in the UK each year at birth weights under 1.5kg.
Preterm birth occurs for a variety of reasons. Most preterm births happen spontaneously, but some are due to early induction of labour or caesarean birth, whether for medical or non-medical reasons.
Common causes of preterm birth include multiple pregnancies, infections and chronic conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure; however, often no cause is identified. There is also a genetic influence. Our scientists are trying to understand of the causes and mechanisms that will advance the development of treatments to prevent preterm birth.