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Investigation looks into triggers for preterm birth

Obstetricians, neonatologists, geneticists, immunologists and bioengineers are just a sampling of the specialists from Stanford that have been working together over the last ten years to determine the basic causes of preterm birth. The goal of the study: identify and reduce the risk of preterm birth.

How common is premature birth?

Premature birth occurs in approximately 380,000 infants throughout the United States every single year.

Why should we care about preterm birth?

Premature delivery can result in life-long developmental, cognitive and physical struggles for the infant. Reasons for these issues discussed in the investigation can include:

  • Immature lungs. Lung development is one of the last stages of in utero growth. As a result, early birth can result in an infant that enters the world without fully developed lungs.
  • Brain injury. Premature infants can also suffer from brain bleeds, or brain hemorrhages.
  • Brain development. Researchers are discovering the role the placenta plays in the neurological development. An early birth can mean this development does not occur or is delayed.

Medical professionals with Stanford who worked with the investigative team have developed a blood test that can help predict the risk of premature birth. Having this information can result in additional prenatal care to help reduce the risk of preterm birth. Researchers with the investigation have also found strategies that improve feeding. The process was linked to a decrease in the development of additional illnesses that are often associated with premature birth.

The researchers state their efforts have reduced the risk of maternal deaths in the state and encourage other states to follow their recommendations.

What does this mean for those who suffer pregnancy-related injuries?

In some cases, premature birth may have been preventable. Those who suffer injuries due to premature birth or other pregnancy related issues may have a legal claim. Victims who believe the injury is the result of a medical professional's failure to provide quality care should seek counsel to discuss potential legal remedies.

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