A New Test Could Predict If Your Baby Will Be Born Premature

by | Jun 13, 2018

In Australia, around eight per cent of babies are born prematurely and the reasons why are not fully understood. However, a new inexpensive, noninvasive blood test could predict a pregnant woman’s due date and potentially indicate those who are at risk of going into labour prematurely.  

In a small pilot study, scientists took blood from 31 healthy pregnant women and analysed the levels of RNA present in the sample. RNA is free floating genetic material that comes from the mother, foetus and placenta, which can offer insight on the baby’s development. Using this information, they predicted the women’s due dates with similar accuracy to ultrasound, but at a significantly lower cost.

The second study analysed the blood samples of 38 women who had an increased risk of delivering preterm. Looking at a subset of the women, they correctly predicted six of eight women who delivered prematurely.

Although the research is only in its earliest stages and a large clinical trial in the general population is required, researchers say the findings are promising.

“By measuring cell-free RNA in the circulation of the mother, we can observe changing patterns of gene activity that happen normally during pregnancy, and identify disruptions in the patterns that may signal to doctors that unhealthy circumstances like preterm labor and birth are likely to occur,” co-researcher Dr. David K. Stevenson said in a statement. “With further study, we might be able to identify specific genes and gene pathways that could reveal some of the underlying causes of preterm birth, and suggest potential targets for interventions to prevent it.”

RELATED: Anna Faris Has Opened Up About Her Son’s Health Issues

Recommended to you

Women Fleeing Domestic Violence Can Now Receive A One-Off Support Payment

It’s been labelled the shadow pandemic and the fact remains that for many women across Australia, domestic violence is a lived reality that doesn’t discriminate by age, occupation, or socio-economic status. Researchers have found that during Covid-19 lockdowns, there was a surge in family and domestic violence, with agencies experiencing a surge in demand as nearly half their clients reported an increase in controlling behaviours. 

As many who have lived through such turmoil and trauma can attest, the roadmap to fleeing such situations at home can be fraught with challenges and extremely difficult to navigate, particularly when such bureaucracy makes it even harder. Now, it’s been announced that women fleeing a violent relationship will be given a one-off $5,000 payment as part of a federal government trial scheme. 

Known as the “escaping violence payment scheme,” the government has set aside $144.5 million over the next two years to give women $1,500 cash, with the remainder to pay for goods and services, bond, school fees and other necessaries to establish a new safe home. UnitingCare Network will be tasked with delivering the payments while helping link women and their children with relevant community services. 

As the Daily Telegraph reports, “An analysis of domestic violence data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that while it is more common for women from poorer areas, women from high socio-economic areas are not immune from experiencing partner violence.”

As Women’s Safety Minister Anne Ruston explained, the trial has been introduced with the aim to help women overcome the financial barriers that might deter them from leaving a violent relationship. “We know that financial hardship as well as economic abuse - which may involve interfering with work or controlling or withholding money - reduces women’s ability to acquire and use money and makes it difficult to leave violent relationships,” she said. 

“The payments will assist people who need financial support to leave. We know the size of the house a woman is fleeing doesn’t matter. Often she bundles the kids into the car, maybe the dog too and they leave with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.”

To be eligible for a payment, women must be facing financial stress and have some evidence of domestic violence such as a referral from a family and domestic violence service provider with a risk assessment and safety plan, or an AVO, court order or police report. As UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little said, “We believe that all people, especially women and their children, have the right to live freely and without fear, and this payment is an important step forward to ending violence against women and children.”

If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.

If you’d like to speak to someone about domestic violence, please call the 1800 

Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online. 

Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.