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Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
Each year nearly one in eight babies are born preterm (before 37 weeks) in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which puts them at a higher risk for a number of health issues later in life.
But now, scientists at Queen Mary University and University College London have identified the chemical chain of events that they believe causes the preterm premature rupture of the fetal membrane (PPROM)—the condition that accounts for 40 percent of all preterm births.
Published in Placenta, scientists found through testing that stretching the amniotic membrane leads to the overproduction of the hormone-like compound prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which in turn activates the protein connexin 43 (Cx43) decreasing the mechanical properties of the membrane, all of which can potentially lead to rupture and preterm birth.
This is the first study of its kind and the next step, researchers say, is to find a treatment that would actually repair the amniotic membrane.
“To have potentially found a way to reduce pre-term births and prevent early deaths of young babies worldwide is incredibly exciting,” study co-author Dr. Tina Chowdhury said in a news release. “This gives us an understanding of both the mechanical as well as biological mechanisms involved and will help us to develop therapies that will reduce the number of preterm births.”
Should your early contractions raise a red flag? Go here to learn more about premature labor.
Photo of preemie baby courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
A review of research on preterm babies reveals that super-early preemies (those born between the 22 and 25 weeks gestation) face significant health risks years later. Compared with full-term babies, these preemies had increased risk of neurological problems at 4 to 8 years of age. Care of premature infants continues to improve, but this review points to the importance of trying to keep babies in the womb as long as possible, TIME.com reports.
More from TIME.com:
It’s not the first hint that preemies are at higher risk of health issues for being born before their development was completed. Some recent studies showed, for example, that babies who were born earlier had poorer test scores in reading and math compared with those born full term. A study published in 2011 that analyzed the long-term effects of premature birth on cognitive abilities such as memory and attention span in early adulthood revealed that people who were born extremely premature performed worse on executive function tests and took longer to complete higher-order intellectual tasks. As adults, these individuals also scored an average of 8.4 points lower on IQ assessments compared with people who were born at full term.
The fact that the effects of premature birth last into adulthood is concerning, since they are not only at a disadvantage in some cognitive functions, they even have a reportedly higher risk of death in early adulthood as well. Advancements in care of premature babies have undoubtedly improved, but lessening their health risks is still a task at hand. In 2012, a team of researchers from the University College London Institute for Women’s Health reported that death rates and health problems among extremely preterm babies has remained unchanged for decades.
While the parents of preemies may find this news less-than-reassuring, this research can help children by giving “parents and clinicians a heads-up for what to look out for during development,” TIME.com says.
Image: Premature baby’s foot, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
NYU Langone Medical Center in Lower Manhattan, out of power from both main sources and backup generators and facing 10-12 feet of water in the wake of the superstorm Sandy, evacuated all patients yesterday and this morning, including its newborns and ill babies. Hospital staff carried the young patients down 9 flights of stairs to evacuate them safely from the building, as CNN.com reports:
The evacuation was moving more slowly than expected, according to hospital spokeswoman Lisa Grenier. About 40 patients remained to be evacuated at 9 a.m. Tuesday, she said. Brotman said earlier that he anticipated the evacuation would last until around 6:30 a.m.
The dawn of a new day, however, brought some help. “At least there’s daylight coming in through the windows,” Grenier said.
Four of the newborns were on respirators that were breathing for them, and when the power went out, each baby was carried down nine flights of stairs while a nurse manually squeezed a bag to deliver air to the baby’s lungs.
“This is a labor-intensive, extremely difficult process,” Brotman said.
Image: Emergency stairs, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
A global study of premature births has found that the U.S. ranks similarly to developing countries when it comes to women who give birth to premature babies. According to The New York Times, American hospitals do very well at protecting the health of both the mothers and babies, but could do far better in managing risk factors for preterm labor.
The Times reports on the possible causes for the findings:
That stems from the unique American combination of many pregnant teenagers and many women older than 35 who are giving birth, sometimes to twins or triplets implanted after in vitro fertilization, the authors said. Twins and triplets are often deliberately delivered early by Caesarean section to avoid the unpredictable risks of vaginally delivering multiple full-term babies.
Also, many American women of childbearing age have other risk factors for premature birth, like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or smoking habits. And the many women who lack health insurance often do not see doctors early in their pregnancies, when problems like high blood pressure or genital infections can be headed off.
Image: Planet Earth, via Shutterstock.
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Friday, April 13th, 2012
The story of a baby in Argentina who was discovered to be alive after being taken to the hospital morgue and given up for dead has the world holding its breath as the girl, born at only 26 weeks gestational age, struggles with health complications typical of babies who are born severely premature.
USA Today reports:
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Tiny Luz Milagros, or “Miracle Light,” is suffering from sepsis and convulsions along with signs of neurological damage, said Dr. Diana Vesco, neonatology chief at the Perrando hospital in Resistencia in northern Chaco province. She said the baby is on a ventilator and being treated with antibiotics.
Her mother, Analia Bouter, said she got a supportive call from President Cristina Fernandez on Wednesday asking to see the baby once she’s out of intensive care.
That could be a while.
Luz Milagros faces a “risk of death commonly associated with her weight and gestational age at birth,” said Vesco.
The case became public Tuesday when Chaco’s deputy health minister, Rafael Sabatinelli, announced that five medical professionals had been suspended pending an official investigation of what happened.