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Preventing premature delivery of twins

Over 50% of twins are born prematurely compared to approximately 7% of single babies in the UK.

Tocolytics, drugs used to reduce the onset of labour, act by preventing contractions caused by the release of the hormone oxytocin and prostaglandins. Whilst these work in delaying premature labour in single baby pregnancies they do not work for twin pregnancies.

Professor Susan Way

There is evidence to show that combining different tocolytics that are already in clinical use will enhance their individual effect and could be successfully adopted to prevent premature labour in twin pregnancies.

“Our research is driven by trying to find out why so many women pregnant with twins suffer a premature labour, which can sadly lead to severe problems for the babies and anguish for their parents.  Many people are aware that about 1 in 10 babies are premature, but do not realise that more than 50% of twins are premature.

We want to look at why the womb in twin pregnancies is triggered to contract early, and which drugs might work best to try and prevent the premature labours.

Surprisingly no research has been done to address these points and it has been assumed that everything works – or doesn’t work – in the same way as for singleton pregnancies.  The funding from Sparks is thus vital to us making a start on doing something, to make the outcome happier for many more families, when twins are expected.”

Professor Susan Wray, Professor of Physiology - University of Liverpool

Potential Impact

The tocolytics Professor Wray is investigating are already in clinical use and so findings could potentially be quickly implemented on the labour ward and provide the basis for a subsequent clinical trial aimed at preventing premature birth of twins and associated health outcomes.


University of Liverpool

Grant awarded

£147,290 over 33 months