Researchers in the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network, supported through the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch, analyzed the blood serum of women at weeks 6 and 7 of their pregnancies, searching for possible protein abnormalities that could warn of early, spontaneous labor.
They identified three peptides (short sections of proteins) that were present in significantly lower concentrations in the serum of women who later delivered prematurely. Specifically, two thirds of the women with lower peptide concentrations were unable to carry their pregnancies to term. As they followed the women through their pregnancies, the researchers also found that concentrations of the peptides fell even lower as the women neared delivery.
Early identification of pregnant patients who are more likely to experience preterm birth could help clinicians to take preventive measures (PMID: 21074133).