WEDNESDAY, Nov. 9, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've identified a new potential risk factor for premature birth.
Ten percent of infants are born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), and many suffer long-term health problems. Knowing why preterm births occur might help prevent them, the researchers said.
A team at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found that calcium deposits in the membrane surrounding the fetus can form early and may cause a mother's water to break too soon. The deposits -- early markers of bone -- make the membrane less elastic, the researchers said.
The same kind of deposits have also been implicated in kidney stones and hardening of the arteries. But the new study did not prove that these early calcium deposits cause premature birth.
"We do see calcium deposits in full term births as well, which is probably part of the normal breakdown of the membranes at the appropriate time," study senior author Dr. Irina Buhimschi said in a hospital news release.
"The membranes are supposed to rupture when labor is underway. However, these calcium deposits are too many and too early," she explained. Buhimschi is director of the Center for Perinatal Research at the hospital.
The study was published Nov. 9 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
The findings suggest it may be possible to identify women whose bodies are unable to prevent the formation of premature calcium deposits. Then, doctors could suggest changes in diet and other interventions to help prevent this kind of preterm birth, Buhimschi said.
The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more on preterm labor and birth.