Premature births leading cause of infant deaths

February 11th, 2010 - 6:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 11 (IANS) Family history, infection and stress all may play a role in raising a woman’s risk of having a premature baby, which is the leading cause of infant deaths.
But they don’t still fully explain why some women give birth too soon and others don’t, according to a review article.

More than 543,000 babies are born too soon each year in the US. Worldwide, about 13 million babies are born prematurely each year.

Babies who survive an early birth face serious risks of lifelong health problems, including learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss and other chronic conditions.

Only if scientists of all disciplines work together and share information… will the research community be able to determine how to prevent spontaneous preterm birth…says Louis Muglia, of Vanderbilt University Medical Centre (VUMC) and Michael Katz, senior vice-president for Research and Global Program at the March Dimes.

Premature birth is a leading cause of infant death in the US and only about half of these deaths have a known cause, Muglia and Katz note.

Medical problems, such as pre-eclampsia, which is extremely high blood pressure in the mother, or foetal distress, do not fully explain the increase of induced deliveries, which often result in late preterm births — birth between 32 and 36 weeks.

“The decision to induce delivery in order to improve foetal viability must be balanced by recognition of the need to minimise the impairments that arise from preterm birth,” the authors wrote, according to a VUMC release.

“Making this decision will remain a challenge for practitioners, because inducing delivery - by whatever method - before full term has adverse consequences for the newborn, even when it happens close to term.”

These findings were published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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