Maternity patients invited to participate in trial aimed at identifying premature birth risk

As part of St John of God Subiaco Hospital’s focus on providing the safest possible maternity care and services, many of the hospital’s obstetricians are supporting a local, potentially life-saving research project which aims to identify patients who are at risk of giving birth early.

27 Jul 2020

Trial participant Belinda Popovski with her daughter Ellie, newborn Lucas, and St John of God Subiaco Hospital Obstetrician and Head of Gynaecology and Obstetrics Dr Michael Gannon. The Preterm Birth Prevention Study uses a new diagnostic test that may help to identify women who are at risk of giving birth prematurely due to bacterial infection. For women who return a positive test result, the study is also testing whether a probiotic treatment regimen can be used to prevent preterm birth from occurring. If successful, this testing and treatment program will be a major breakthrough in pregnancy care and will likely save the lives of hundreds of Western Australian infants and many more worldwide.

Ten St John of God Subiaco Hospital Obstetricians are inviting eligible patients to participate in the trial. Participants are required to complete a brief questionnaire and self-collect two vaginal swabs for analysis by a microbiologist.

St John of God Subiaco Hospital Obstetrician and Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Dr Michael Gannon said that by participating in the study, patients can help researchers confirm if the new test and treatment program effectively predicts preterm birth risk and reduces the overall rate of preterm birth.

“Most importantly, participation may also help to delay or prevent pre-term labour and reduce complications for both mother and baby,” he said.

Trial participant Belinda Popovski, whose son Lucas was born at full term in June, added that she felt strongly about contributing to science and had participated in clinical trials through St John of God Subiaco Hospital during all three of her pregnancies.

“This trial was particularly important to me as quite a few of my friends and family members have given birth prematurely,” she said.

“I am pleased to have contributed to knowledge that will support future pregnancies and potentially help keep mums and their babies safe.”

Preterm birth affects up to 9% of births in Australia every year and is the single greatest cause of death and disability in children up to five years of age.

Around 20 to 40 per cent of cases are related to bacterial infections of the reproductive tract, many of which are asymptomatic.

As a leading provider of neonatal specialist care for babies who are born prematurely or unwell and who need extra support, St John of God Subiaco Hospital is well positioned to support the study. We are the only private hospital in Perth with a neonatal unit that provides onsite 24 hour specialist care delivered by neonatal pediatricians and specialist nurses.

St John of God Subiaco Hospital is also the only private hospital in Perth with an emergency theatre located on the same floor as its Birth Suite, which can prove critical in the event of premature birth.