One of the models, which included proteins found in amniotic and cervical fluids, predicted birthing with 91 percent accuracy. The other test, which included measuring the cervix, was 85 percent accurate.
But even with effective predictive tests, another significant problem remains: what to do with the women at higher risk.
"Even if we can predict who's going to deliver soon, we don't really have any tricks up our sleeve that will prevent that," Greenfield. "There are medications that we use, but none are very effective."
Still, identifying women at higher risk would enable doctors to give babies steroids in the womb to help mature their lungs faster, Greenfield said. These are considered most effective when given two to seven days before delivery.
"We could time our steroids," she said.
Cabbad added that "any work in the area of preterm birth and the ability to help us diagnose those patients who may be at risk for preterm birth is beneficial as we go forward."
"We're still looking for the magic wand that's going to be able to pass over each patient to determine who's at higher risk," he said.
The March of Dimes has more on premature birth.
SOURCES: Bo Jacobsson, M.D., Ph.D., perinatal center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden; Marjorie Greenfield, M.D., associate professor, obstetrics and gynecology, Case School of Medicine and University Hospitals, Cleveland; Michael Cabbad, M.D., chairman, obstetrics and gynecology, and chief, maternal/fetal medicine, Brooklyn Hospital Center, New York City; August 2009, Obstetrics
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