FRIDAY, Sept. 15, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Targeted research to prevent premature birth is needed in order to save the lives of thousands of babies each year, according to a March of Dimes expert panel report released Friday.
"Preterm birth is a complex disorder, like heart disease or diabetes, with no single cause, and it requires a multifaceted approach," report lead author Dr. Nancy S. Green, March of Dimes medical director, said in a prepared statement.
"We need to stimulate more funding for research in six promising areas that may lead to new clinical strategies for identifying who is at greatest risk for premature birth and how to prevent it," Green said.
The six priority areas are:
- Epidemiological studies that examine the risk of extremely preterm births to spot factors that predispose women to very early labor and delivery.
- Genes and their interaction with the environment that, combined, result in preterm birth.
- Racial and ethnic differences that may explain why non-Hispanic black American women have the highest rate of premature babies in the U.S.
- The impact of infection and immune response to infection.
- The effects of stress on the mother and fetus.
- Clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of potential treatments.
More than 12 percent (about 500,000) of babies born each year in the United States are born prematurely and the rate of premature births in the country has increased by more than 30 percent since 1981. Premature birth is the leading cause of death among U.S. newborns, and preterm babies who survive often suffer lifelong health problems.
The recommendations appear in the current issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The Nemours Foundation has more about premature babies.