At the moment, women are given a due date that is 40 weeks from the first day of their last period, but some give birth weeks before that, while others go beyond that date and may need to have labour induced.
Ina Stelzer at Stanford University, California, and her colleagues are investigating a new approach that involves tracking how the body responds to signals from the fetus and prepares for labour. “The blood shows that birth is approaching,” she says.
Stelzer’s team took blood samples from 53 pregnant women and tested them in multiple ways between one and three times over their expected last 100 days of pregnancy. The researchers looked at nearly 5000 biochemicals and carried out more than 2000 tests on immune cells in their blood.
Two to four weeks before the birth, the team found that there was a change in the women’s hormone patterns and a fall in inflammatory immune cell activity, reflected by changes in the blood biomarkers.
If turned into a commercial test, it could be useful for knowing if pregnant women are likely to give birth prematurely, says Rachel Tribe at King’s College London.