Posts Tagged ‘
preventing prematurity ’
Monday, November 19th, 2012
This post is written by Dana Points, editor in chief of Parents.
Watching a nurse change what must surely be the world’s smallest diaper will do more to motivate you to want to prevent prematurity than reading troubling statistics about early birth. Nevertheless, I’ll share some: Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm each year. 1.1 million die and many others are disabled. The rate of preterm birth in the U.S. has dropped over the last five years, but we still have the highest rate of any industrialized country.
I saw the diaper change–and incubator after incubator holding the tiniest babies, often attached to ventilators and monitors–during a visit to the neonatal intensive care unit at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, which is affiliated with Stanford University School of Medicine. There, the March of Dimes has funded a unique research center where scientists from across a wide array of specialties are examining the causes of prematurity in hopes of finding cures. (I had the opportunity to make the visit because I am a March of Dimes trustee.)
Researchers are looking at the role microorganisms that live in our digestive tract, on our skin and elsewhere in the body play in prematurity; at the connections between genes and the environment; and at the way data can be used to examine why some hospitals have higher rates of early births and what doctors can do to bring down the numbers. Here at Parents we have “bagel Wednesdays” when our staff shares breakfast and conversation. But at the MOD’s Prematurity Research Center they have “preterm Wednesdays” where scientists share findings and ideas. Pretty humbling to think about the difference.
The scientists and the babies are heroic here, but so are the California moms-to-be and moms who are participating in the center’s research by giving weekly samples scraped from their gums and skin, as well as urine and blood samples, which scientists are using to help identify possible causes of prematurity. The lab’s giant freezers are crowded with 10,000 samples. The vials arrive in thermal lunch bags like the kind my kids use. These are bright red so as not to be confused with…lunch (photo to the right).
The goal of the Prematurity Research Center is essentially to put the NICU out of business, and the doctors who spend their days treating these babies say their top priority is prevention. Until that goal is achieved, we’ll keep World Prematurity Day on the calendar as a reminder so the tiniest babies won’t be forgotten.
Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
A baby is born preterm roughly every minute in the United States. I’ve seen the data many times and know women who have gone into labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy, and still this statistic seems staggering to me. If science has found a way to induce labor, surely doctors must be able to do the opposite. New research suggests that there’s hope—and it starts with a ruler. Okay, so not your standard elementary-school staple, but a tool that measures the length of your cervix, called the CerviLenz, which is inserted into the vagina and measures the length of the outer wall of the cervix. During pregnancy, the cervix shortens as your due date approaches to allow the baby to enter the birth canal. But in some women, it shortens too soon, making them six times more likely to go into labor early.
Who needs to have their cervical length measured and when? We know that there are certain risk factors for preterm birth, such as a previous history, high stress levels, being pregnant with twins or more, and smoking, but the fact is that it can happen to any woman, so every woman should get measured around 20 weeks and again around 24 weeks of gestation. For those women who are diagnosed with a short cervix (less than 20 millimeters), research has shown that treatment with progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone during pregnancy, can reduce the likelihood of preterm labor by 45 percent.
Until this precaution becomes mainstream, the best thing you can do is to be your own advocate. Ask your doctor about getting your cervix measured. For more information, visit measure2besure.com
Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
A new National Institutes of Health study found that progesterone reduced the rate of preterm birth before the 33rd week of pregnancy by 45 percent for one category of at risk women.
The study, published online in Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology today, focused on women who had a short cervix, which is a risk factor for preterm birth. Progesterone is a naturally occurring pregnancy hormone, and a short cervix may be a sign of a progesterone shortage.
Beyond reducing the risk of early delivery, the progesterone treated women’s babies were less likely to develop respiratory distress syndrome, a common breathing complication of preterm infants.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1 in every 8 babies in the U.S. are born prematurely each year. Preterm infants are at high risk of long term health and developmental problems including learning disabilities, blindness, deafness, cerebal palsy, and early death.
So for women with a short cervix — which can be identified through routine ultrasound screenings — progesterone treatment could be an important way to increase the length of pregnancy, resulting in healthier babies.
Learn more about preterm delivery: