Threatened preterm labour: women’s experiences of risk and care management: A qualitative study

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Background Preterm birth is a major cause of neonatal death and severe morbidity, so pregnant women experiencing symptoms of threatened preterm labour may be very anxious. The risk assessment and management that follows recognition of threatened preterm labour has the potential to either increase or decrease this anxiety. The aim of this study was to explore women's experience of threatened preterm labour, risk assessment and management in order to identify potential improvements in practice. Design One-to-one semi-structured interviews with 19 women who experienced assessment for threatened preterm labour took place between March 2015 and January 2017. A purposive sample approach was employed to ensure participants from different risk and demographic backgrounds were recruited at an inner city UK NHS hospital. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. Data was managed with NVivo software and analysed using the Framework Approach. A public and patient involvement panel contributed to the design, analysis and interpretation of the findings. Findings Data saturation was achieved after 19 interviews. 11 women were low risk and 8 were high risk for preterm birth. All high risk women had experience of being supported by a specialist preterm team. Four main themes emerged: i) coping with uncertainty; ii) dealing with conflicts; iii) aspects of care and iv) interactions with professionals. Both low and high risk women experiencing TPTL struggle to cope with the uncertainty of this unpredictable state. The healthcare management they receive can both help and hinder their ability to cope with this extremely stressful experience. High risk women were less likely to receive conflicting advice. Key conclusions and implications for practice Clinicians should acknowledge uncertainty, minimize conflicting information and advice, and promote continuity of care models for all women, including those attending high risk clinics and in the ward environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-92
Number of pages8
Early online date11 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Preterm
  • Experience
  • Threatened preterm labour


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