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Detroit News highlights groundbreaking WSU, DMC research on preterm births, preventative treatments

January 29, 2014

Today's front page story discusses groundbreaking discoveries by researchers at the Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University that are helping explain why so many Detroit babies are born too early, and could position the city to lead global efforts to prevent prematurity and save babies' lives. So many babies die in Detroit that the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, in collaboration with Wayne State University, located its Perinatology Research Branch at the Detroit Medical Center in 2002. Its mission is to discover why some pregnancies don't go well, and to find tests to predict preterm births and treatments to prevent them. The primary cause of infant mortality, in Detroit and elsewhere, is preterm birth - babies born too soon to survive. According to Dr. Roberto Romero, chief of the Perinatology Research Branch, about two-thirds of preterm births happen because the mother spontaneously goes into labor. The other third occur when health conditions, such as a woman's high blood pressure or the fetus' failure to grow, require doctors to deliver the baby early by Caesarian section. In a study that spanned 44 countries, Romero and Wayne State University Associate Dean Dr. Sonia S. Hassan, director of advanced obstetrical care and research with the Perinatology Research Branch, found that vaginal progesterone can significantly reduce the risk of early labor in women diagnosed with short cervixes. Daily use of vaginal progesterone gel reduced by 45 percent the number of preterm births that occurred before 33 weeks among study participants with short cervixes. Preterm deliveries between 28 and 33 weeks of gestation were reduced by about half, and those between 28 and 38 weeks were reduced by more than a third.