Entries in Preterm Births (4)


Preterm Birth Rate in US Down to Lowest in a Decade

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Preterm births in the U.S. dropped for a fifth consecutive year in 2011, marking the lowest rate in a decade, according to the March of Dimes.

The non-profit organization's annual Premature Birth Report Card found that the preterm birth rate went down to 11.7 percent last year, down from its peak in 2006 of 12.8 percent.

"In 2010, about 64,000 fewer babies were born preterm than in 2006, which was the peak year for pre-term births.  So this is decreasing health care and social costs but most importantly, it's giving 64,000 babies a better start," March of Dimes Medical Director Dr. Ed McCabe told ABC News Radio.

The report reflects that more expectant mothers are taking better care of themselves with improved diets and visits to doctors, he said.

“A woman needs to get a pre-conception checkup before getting pregnant.  She needs to go to all of her pre-natal care appointments even when she's feeling fine,” Dr. McCabe advised.

Taking these steps to lower premature births will also result in lower health care costs.

“It's estimated that the improvement in preterm birth rate represents a potential savings of about $3 billion -- billion with a 'b' -- in health care and economic costs to society,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Preterm Birth: A Public Health Crisis?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Roughly 12 percent of American babies are born before 37 weeks gestation, a new study found, landing the U.S. in sixth place behind India, Nigeria and Pakistan when it comes to preterm births.

"Urgent attention is needed to better understand and reduce these rates of preterm birth," the study authors wrote in their report, published Thursday in The Lancet.

More than half of babies born at 25 weeks or sooner survive in the U.S., thanks to cutting edge care.  But it costs the country upward of $26.2 billion a year, or $51,600 per preterm infant, according to an editorial accompanying the study.

"The economic burden from preterm birth is, of course, of less importance than human suffering, but is far from insignificant," wrote Dr. Nils-Halvdan Morken of the University of Bergen and Haukeland University Hospital.  "Preterm birth not only results in economic burdens due to initial neonatal treatment, but also in substantial costs to health services after discharge from the neonatal unit, culminating in an immense burden on health, education, and social services, and on affected families."

Babies born at 27 weeks or sooner are 10 times more likely to have intellectual disabilities and 80 times more likely to have cerebral palsy, according to Morken.

"Clearly, the implications go far beyond the immediate obstetric and neonatal outcomes and profoundly affect the everyday lives of affected infants, adolescents, men, and women," he wrote.

But some preterm births are spontaneous and impossible to avoid.  Others are provider initiated, meaning a doctor decides it's best for both mom and baby.

"In some cases, the baby needs to come out.  It would be worse for them to stay in," Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, division chief of general obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.  "The medical team needs to weigh the risks and the benefits."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fewer Preterm Births Due to Public Smoking Bans?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(GLASGOW, Scotland) -- Do smoking bans mean fewer preterm births?  The answer could be yes, according to a new study published online Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine.

After a nationwide smoking ban on public areas in Scotland took effect in 2006, researchers led by Jill Pell of the University of Glasgow found that preterm deliveries dropped by 10 percent, HealthDay reports. The number of infants with low birth weight also decreased by almost five percent (small) and almost eight percent (very small). The researchers noted, according to HealthDay, that decreases in preterm and low birth weight babies were present regardless of whether or not mothers were smokers, underscoring the significance of secondhand smoke.

The researchers found no causal relationship between laws that ban smoking and decreases in preterm births and underweight infants, but say the study's findings do support the consideration of smoke-free legislation.

"The results of our study add to the growing evidence of the wide-ranging health benefits of smoke-free legislation and lend support to the adoption of such legislation in countries where it does not currently exist," the study authors wrote in a journal news release.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Depression During Pregnancy: Weighing Risks, Benefits of SSRIs

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROTTERDAM, Netherlands) -- After two years of trying, Tricia Stream was overjoyed to find herself pregnant with twins. But her mind quickly turned to the drug she'd been taking to treat her depression.

"I didn't know what to do," said Stream, 31, who had been taking the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor Zoloft for seven years. "I was so worried about having a depressive episode, and I was really worried about postpartum depression. But I didn't want to expose my babies to the drug."

Left untreated, depression during pregnancy can increase the risk of pre-eclampsia, low birth weight and maternal suicide. But treating prenatal depression with certain antidepressants carries risks, too. A new study suggests SSRIs may increase the risk of preterm birth and delay fetal head growth.

"Our findings further raise the question whether maternal SSRI treatment during pregnancy is better or worse for the fetus than untreated maternal depression," wrote study author Hanan El Marroun of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. "Clinicians must carefully weigh the known risks of untreated depression during pregnancy and the possible adverse effects of SSRIs."

The study followed 7,696 pregnant women, 570 of whom had untreated depressive symptoms and 99 of whom took SSRIs for depression.

"Untreated depressive symptoms were associated with a reduction in total body growth, including the fetal head, during pregnancy," the authors wrote. "In contrast, prenatal SSRI use was related to a reduced growth of the fetal head, whereas prenatal SSRI use did not affect growth of the fetal body."

While delayed fetal head growth may be linked behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders, the authors caution "we must be careful not to infer an association of SSRI use in pregnancy with future developmental problems."

Babies born to women taking SSRIs were also more likely to be born preterm, according to the study, which was published Monday in Archives of General Psychiatry.

But for some women, the benefits of taking SSRIs during pregnancy far exceed the risks.

"If we are talking about a woman who can't take care of her health as a result of battling with moderate to severe depression, she faces risks to herself as well as the baby that are associated with untreated depression during pregnancy," said Dr. Sudeepta Varma, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone School of Medicine. "All doctors want to ensure healthy mom and baby. But if you don't take care of the mom, there may be no baby to speak of."

After weighing the benefits and the risks with her obstetrician and psychiatrist, Stream decided to keep taking Zoloft during her pregnancy.

"For me, there was more concern about the effects of depression than the effects of taking antidepressants," she said, describing the "I don't care" attitude typical of her depressive episodes.

Aside from miserable morning sickness, Stream's pregnancy was progressing fine until week 22, when she was admitted to the hospital with a weakened cervix. And despite drugs to prevent preterm birth, she went into labor at 27 weeks.

"I definitely felt the guilt, overwhelmingly," said Stream, describing how she felt "unable to protect them, unable to keep them healthy. They were Memorial Day babies when they were supposed to be Labor Day babies."

Logan and Caden Stream came out crying at 2 pounds, a good sign given their early arrival. And for three months, the tiny pink "Muppets" were hooked up to machines in the neonatal intensive care unit. Stream said she can't imagine how she would have fared off Zoloft.

"It probably would have made me feel like I was going to lose my children, as opposed to having a fighting spirit," she said. "I needed that strength."

After three months, the boys were strong enough to go home. And last week, a letter from a high-risk neonatologist said the 21-month-old twins had "no lasting effects of prematurity."

"That's the best news I ever could have gotten," said Stream. "I'm going to frame that."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio