Regular cervical examinations of pregnant women is useless in detecting a premature birth, despite recommendations from US and French health experts that they can help.

The examinations are also unreliable, and may even lead to complications such as the premature rupturing of membranes.

This damning indictment of what has become a routine procedure in some European countries is based on a major, controlled trial involving 5,602 pregnant women.

Of those, 2,803 were given six cervical examinations, and the remainder had just one. The rate of premature births was virtually the same in both groups, as was the incidents of low birth weight.

The trial, led by Dr Pierre Buekens at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium, concluded that regular cervical examination “should not be recommended”.

!AThe Lancet, 24 September 1994.

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