Premature baby

Preterm birth is a nagging concern for many moms. So we try as hard as we can to do everything we think is right in efforts to keep those kiddos inside for the long haul.

Making every attempt to have a healthy and safe pregnancy is important, of course. But new research indicates that some preterm births may not even be in expecting moms' control. Because rather than moms' bodies being the cause for babies coming into the world too early, it cold actually be that some babies are themselves genetically predisposed to come out too soon.

This idea is the result of new research that shows it's actually variations in the fetus's DNA, rather than in the expecting mom's, that causes some births to happen early.

Joseph Biggio, M.D., of the University of Alabama, and colleagues from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Genomics and Proteomics Network for Preterm Birth Research helmed the study, which looked at blood or saliva from hundreds of babies as well as their mothers. While the researchers didn't find a link between the number of copies of the mother's genes and the chances of a baby coming early, there was a big increase in pre-term births before 34 weeks of pregnancy when variances were found in babies who were preterm, versus those who were carried to full term.

So how does this new outlook change things?

"While this work will not immediately change the way we are treating women at risk for preterm birth, it changes the way we have to think about approaches to treatment," Dr. Biggio told via email. "Instead of looking for medications that stop contractions, we may need to be looking for medications that can affect the fetal response that triggers preterm birth. Overall, our understanding of the things that initiate the process of preterm is primitive, but this research sheds new light on the process and opens new avenues for investigation and potential treatments. It also stresses the fact that we need to think about both maternal and fetal contributions to preterm birth."

The great news overall is that the preterm birth rate in the United States dropped more than 10 percent between 2013 and 2006. However, more than 450,000 babies are still born too soon each year (before 37 weeks of pregnancy).

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Alesandra Dubin is a new twin mom. She's also a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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