Preterm birth: Inflammation, fetal injury and treatment strategies

J Reprod Immunol. 2017 Feb;119:62-66. doi: 10.1016/j.jri.2016.11.008. Epub 2016 Dec 2.


Preterm birth (PTB) is the leading cause of childhood mortality in children under 5 and accounts for approximately 11% of births worldwide. Premature babies are at risk of a number of health complications, notably cerebral palsy, but also respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. Preterm deliveries can be medically indicated/elective procedures or they can occur spontaneously. Spontaneous PTB is commonly associated with intrauterine infection/inflammation. The presence of inflammatory mediators in utero has been associated with fetal injury, particularly affecting the fetal lungs and brain. This review will outline (i) the role of inflammation in term and PTB, (ii) the effect infection/inflammation has on fetal development and (iii) recent strategies to target PTB. Further research is urgently required to develop effective methods for the prevention and treatment of PTB and above all, to reduce fetal injury.

Keywords: Fetal injury; Inflammation; Preterm birth.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / immunology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / immunology*
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / prevention & control
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Precision Medicine
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / immunology*
  • Premature Birth / prevention & control
  • Tocolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Uterus / immunology*


  • Tocolytic Agents