Preterm birth rates plummet in the ACT

The number of babies born prematurely in the ACT has fallen by 10 per cent in the first year following the launch of ACT’s own version of the Whole Nine Months program.

This outcome surpassed the expectations of all those involved. But how was this incredible result achieved?
What we did 

The ACT branch of the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance aimed to follow the success of the Western Australian The Whole Nine Months program to address the rates of early birth. 

A guideline on the prevention and management of early birth was developed with different pathways to follow for low, medium and high-risk women. The program included a dedicated multidisciplinary preterm prevention clinic with a structured quit smoking program together with education for health care practitioners and pregnant women on avoiding early planned birth unless medically indicated. 

Underpinning the importance of Midwifery Continuity of Care, The Whole Nine Months ACT engaged one midwife who would be at the heart of the program and would stay with each expectant mother for the duration of her pregnancy.

A formal launch of the initiative took place with Ministerial endorsement followed by a three-month outreach education program across the ACT and surrounding NSW areas. 

After 16 months of the initiative, ACT have been happy to announce an overall reduction of pre term births by 10% which resulted in approximately 45 early births averted. The ACT team were also able to demonstrate a significant reduction of early term births (37 and 38 weeks gestation) by 34% which equated to approximately 77 early terms births averted. 

What we are still to do

This has been a phenomenal result born by the hard work of the many clinicians and pregnant women involved in the initiative endorsing and adopting the new guidelines. 

When the findings were reviewed they demonstrated that the most dramatic effects were in the first few months from the roll out of the initiative, with results beginning to plateau as the year went on. 

This showed us that there is still important work to be done to continue to promote the good work of the initiative to continue lowering rates of early birth.