1st fact


Preterm birth is the largest cause of death and disability in children under 5  in developed countries.

Preterm Birth Prevention - WIRF and China

Research Highlights

WIRF researchers are pursuing several research studies in China. One of these studies is aimed at discovering why Chinese women in China appear to be at much lower risk of preterm birth than women in Australia, including women of Chinese origin.

These studies have been conducted with colleagues in Nanjing, China. The Chinese group is led by Professor Hu Yali, who heads the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the major hospital in Nanjing, known as the Drum Tower Hospital. It has been held for many years that the rate of preterm birth in China is lower than in most Western countries. China, however, does not have a national perinatal data collection system and the actual rate of preterm birth has been uncertain. In order to be certain, we conducted a study of nearly half a million births of women in Jiangsu Province, China; Hong Kong; and Western Australia. The rate of preterm birth in China was 2.5 – 3%; in Hong Kong 5-7% and in Western Australia 8-9%.Chinese women were found to have increasing rates of preterm birth as they moved to more Western environments, suggesting an environmental cause.

We are now investigating the possibility that preterm birth can be predicted by measurements in amniotic fluid collected at 15-17 weeks of pregnancy. Samples are collected at this time for genetic studies. To date, we have collected samples from more than 600 women at KEMH and nearly 2000 women in Nanjing, China.

At this time, measurements are in progress assessing the presence of bacteria and inflammatory markers in the amniotic fluid of these women. Comparisons will be made between samples from Australia and China. It is expected these studies will shed new light on the underlying causes of early birth and will lead us to new strategies by which a proportion of preterm birth may be prevented.



Professor John Newnham

Dr Shaofu Li

Assist Prof Matt Payne

Prof (Adj) Dorota Doherty
BSc (Hons) PhD

Cherry Young

Nanjing University/Drum Tower Hospital, Nanjing China

Prof Hu Yali

Dr Zheng Mingming

Dr Xu Biyun

Dr Zhou Yihua