The UK NSC recommendation on Preterm labour screening in pregnancy

Recommendation Systematic population screening programme not recommended
Last review completed January 2015
Next review due in 2017/18
Key downloads

Find general information about population health screening.

Why is screening not recommended by UK NSC?

UK NSC Committee did not recommend because:

  • The measurement of cervical length in asymptomatic women is not reliable enough for use as a screening tool. There are unanswered questions over the timing of the test and there is no standardised 'normal' measurement of cervical length in order to establish what an 'abnormal' measurement is.
  • Therefore it is not known when the test should be offered or whether it is reliable in identifying which pregnancies are at risk and which are not. Screening would identify many women as at risk when they are not, leading to unnecessary preventative treatment.
  • There is not enough evidence to be sure that vaginal progesterone (a hormone treatment) is an effective treatment for preventing preterm labour or that it reduces the most severe outcomes (death or disability) for the baby.

More about Preterm labour

Preterm birth is where the baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy. In the UK, over 7% of babies are expected to be born prematurely each year. Preterm babies are at risk of both short- and long-term health consequences. The severity of these consequences is often linked to how early the baby is born.

» Read more about preterm labour on NHS Choices


Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services
The Birth Trauma Association
British Association of Perinatal Medicine
British Maternal & Fetal Medicine Society
Faculty of Public Health
National Childbirth Trust
Royal College of General Practitioners
Royal College of Midwives
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

The stakeholder groups will be involved when the recommendation is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More information for stakeholders can be found in appendix C of the UK NSC evidence review process.

Related documents

icon Preterm birth evidence review - consultation version (PDF document, 1.38MB, 21/07/14)

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