Our researchers investigate preventing preterm birth

Assoc. Prof Ricardo Palma-Dias
Assoc. Prof Ricardo Palma-Dias, a fetal medicine specialist and the Clinical Director of the Women’s Ultrasound Services
8 April 2016 | Pregnancy | Research and clinical trials

Preventing preterm birth, the leading cause of neonatal and infant death and disability, is a priority for research teams worldwide.

At the Women’s a team, led by Assoc Professor Ricardo Palma-Dias and Dr Penny Sheehan joined nine international research centres to investigate the potential benefits of using a cervical pessary as a preventative intervention for women with a short cervix – a condition  associated with increased risk of preterm birth.

Assoc. Prof Palma-Dias said the evidence was mixed. “There was a possibility that a cervical pessary could help prevent preterm birth in this high risk group," he said.

"But the evidence was not clear so it was important to clinically investigate this intervention in a large number of patients."

Assoc. Prof Palma-Dias is a fetal medicine specialist and the Clinical Director of the Women’s Ultrasound Services. Dr Sheehan is the head of the Women’s dedicated preterm labour clinic.

The results of the randomised trial were published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine. The trial included 935 women across nine countries including patients from the Women’s in Australia.

The trial investigated the theory that a rubber pessary could support the cervix and reduce pressure on the cervical canal from the developing fetus and it was sponsored by the Fetal Medicine Foundation, a London-based charity.

“It concluded that there was no significant difference in the outcome of women with singleton pregnancies who had a short cervix,” Assoc. Prof Palma-Dias said.

Watch the NEJM quick-take video that explains the randomised trial of a cervical pessary to prevent preterm singleton birth. It is called Cervical Pessary to Prevent Preterm Birth?