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Fetal heart rate and nuchal translucency as first trimester markers of preterm birth

Morales-Roselló, José; Loscalzo, Gabriela; Perez, Gemma; Soriano Paya, Alicia; Jakaitė, Vaidilė; Perales Marín, Alfredo


To evaluate whether first trimester fetal heart rate (FHR) and nuchal translucency (NT) associate with preterm birth (PTB).


This was a comparative case-control study of 518 normal pregnancies with no history of PTB of which 272 delivered at term (TB) and 246 progressed to spontaneous PTB prior to 37, 34, 32 and 28 weeks. Fetal heart rate (FHR) and nuchal translucency (NT) values at the first trimester scan were compared by means of univariable (Mann-Whitney) and multivariable logistic regression analysis considering hourglass membranes (HM) as the most severe PTB subgroup. Finally severity trends for both parameters were investigated using correlations with gestational age (GA) at delivery and Kruskal-Walls tests.


Regardless of GA at delivery, pregnancies affected with PTB showed higher FHR and thicker NT at the first trimester scan. The association was confirmed by the multivariable analysis and the severity trends, which paired the highest FHR and NT values with the most severe cases of PTB (p<0.001) (p<0.0001).


Fetuses with subsequent late, early and very early PTB show higher values of NT and FHR at the first trimester scan.

This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine on 22 February 2021, available at Funding sources: Gabriela Loscalzo received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant, agreement No 765274.
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