P3 study leader in Boston for preterm birth and artificial intelligence meeting

February 19, 2020

Dr Jennifer Hall, lead researcher on the P3 Study, took part in a 2 day symposium in Boston, USA on 13th and 14th February, with Prof. Anna David, Director of the UCL Institute for Women’s Health, who set up the Preterm Birth clinical service at UCLH in 2008, and which is now one of the busiest in the UK.

The aim of the meeting, which was organised by the UK Science and Innovation Network and the British Consulate-General, Boston, was to bring together experts from the field of preterm birth and the area of artificial intelligence (AI) in both the UK and USA to see whether AI could be used to help predict and prevent preterm birth.

Dr Hall chaired the first session, which gave delegates an overview and introduction to the problem of preterm birth. She explained that 1 in 10 babies worldwide are born prematurely, which is defined as before 37 weeks’ gestation (1). Preterm birth is now the leading cause of deaths in children under the age of 5, causing an estimated one million deaths a year (1). Many children who survive experience lifelong health consequences (1). In many countries, the rate of preterm birth is actually increasing. There are lot of factors that can increase a woman’s risk of having a preterm birth, but as yet no way of accurately identifying who will go on to have a preterm birth, or how best to intervene to prevent it.

Her key message was that by the time a woman is in preterm labour it is too late. There are a number of risk factors that could be addressed before pregnancy, as part of a comprehensive preconception health package, to identify women at increased risk of preterm birth (and other adverse outcomes) and support them to reduce their risks before they become pregnant. The findings of the P3 study will be instrumental in helping us to identify women who are likely to become pregnant in the short term and who would benefit from this advice.

Prof. David shared the UK’s experience of developing and implementing the Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle (2) aimed at reducing stillbirths and preterm births. Preterm birth clinics, such as that run by Prof. David, have been shown to be effective in reducing preterm births in women who have previously had a preterm birth by up to 13% (3).

If you would like to learn more about preterm birth and its risk factors you can read the NHS information here and information from Tommy’s, a charity that funds research in to  miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth here


1 – WHO factsheet on preterm birth

2 – Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle

3 – Newnham et al Strategies to Prevent Preterm Birth 2014 Front Immunol. 2014; 5: 584.