-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- About 58,000 premature
births could be prevented each year if the world's 39 richest
nations implemented five recommended measures to prevent preterm
birth, a new study suggests.
The study also said that the reduction in premature births would
save those countries about $3 billion a year in related medical and
economic costs. Nearly half of those savings would be in the United
States, where there are more than half a million preterm babies
delivered every year.
The researchers assessed the impact of five evidence-based
interventions to reduce premature birth: reducing the use of
elective cesarean sections and induced labor; getting pregnant
women to stop smoking; limiting multiple embryo transfers in
assisted reproductive technology; progesterone supplementation; and
cervical cerclage, which is a surgical procedure that can prevent
preterm birth in some women.
The impact of these interventions on premature births would vary
from an 8 percent reduction in the United States to a 2 percent
reduction in the U.K., according to the study, published Nov. 15 in
The average 5 percent reduction that could be achieved by
implementing the five interventions is "shockingly small," study
author Dr. Joy Lawn, of Save the Children, said in a journal news
release. She added that more research is needed to find better ways
to prevent preterm birth.
Each year, about 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37
weeks of pregnancy) and about 1.1 million of them die. Most of
those deaths occur in poor countries, where the infants die from
lack of simple care. The issue is the focus of World Prematurity
Day, on Nov. 17.
In an editorial accompanying the study, two experts agreed that
more research is needed to find more effective ways to reduce the
number of premature births.
"Until considerable strides have been made in our understanding of how, why and when preterm births occur, and the effects that this has on both mother and baby, preterm births will remain a major public health problem, from which no country in the world is immune," Jane Norman and Andrew Shennan, of Tommy's Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, said in the news release.
The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development has more about
preterm labor and birth.
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