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BACKGROUND: Threatened preterm birth is the most common reason for antepartum hospitalization in the United States, accounting for approximately 50% of these admissions. However, fewer than 10% of patients with inpatient evaluation for signs or symptoms of preterm labor ultimately deliver before term.

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to generate predictive models to assess the risk of preterm delivery and time to delivery based on clinical signs and symptoms of patients evaluated in our institution for preterm labor concerns.

STUDY DESIGN: This was a retrospective cohort study of singleton pregnancies evaluated for signs and/or symptoms of preterm labor, including contractions, abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, and short cervix, between 22 0/7 and 33 6/7 weeks of gestation. Inpatient evaluations were classified by patient presentation: (1) symptomatic with cervical findings (transvaginal cervical length of <2.5 cm or cervical dilation of >= 2.0 cm), (2) asymptomatic with cervical findings, and (3) symptomatic without cervical findings. The primary outcomes included incidence of spontaneous preterm birth and interval from presentation to delivery, compared between groups. The risk of preterm delivery was evaluated using logbinomial regression, and presentation to delivery timing was assessed by survival analysis and Cox proportional hazards modeling.

RESULTS: Of 631 patients with preterm labor concerns, 96 (16%) were symptomatic with cervical findings on evaluation, 51 (8%) were asymptomatic with cervical findings, and 466 (76%) were symptomatic without cervical findings. The occurrence of preterm birth was significantly higher among symptomatic patients with cervical findings (49%) than among those with cervical findings alone (31%) or symptoms alone (11%) (P<.0001). In addition, symptomatic patients with cervical findings were significantly more likely to deliver within 48 hours (20%), 1 week (30%), 2 weeks (33%), and 1 month (43%) of presentation than patients with cervical findings alone (2%, 2%, 6%, and 10%, respectively) or symptoms alone (0.4%, 1%, 1.5%, and 5%, respectively) (P value for trend<.0001). Adjusted for gestational age at presentation and previous preterm birth, the overall risk of preterm delivery was significantly higher among patients with symptoms and cervical findings than among patients with cervical findings alone (relative risk, 2.81; 95% confidence interval, 1.74-4.54) or symptoms alone (relative risk, 4.39; 95% confidence interval, 3.16 -6.09). Adjusted for the same variables, symptomatic patients with cervical findings were also at higher risk of delivery over time after assessment than patients with cervical findings alone (hazard ratio, 2.06; 95% confidence interval, 1.47-2.90) or symptoms alone (hazard ratio, 2.16; 95% confidence interval, 1.74-2.70). The negative predictive value of these models suggested that only 1% of patients with isolated symptoms or cervical findings are at risk of preterm delivery within 1 week of initial presentation.

CONCLUSION: Symptomatic patients with cervical findings suggestive of preterm labor were at the greatest risk of preterm birth and a shorter interval from presentation to delivery. The study findings supported a risk profile that may facilitate the selection of patients most appropriate for admission and targeted management. Nonetheless, as nearly 50% of patients meeting this risk profile subsequently deliver at term, future research is needed to identify which of these patients will require intervention.


©2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Publication Title

American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology MFM



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Mentor/PI Department

Obstetrics and Gynecology



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