Medical breakthrough could reduce premature birth rates, save lives

Pregnancy
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Black PR Wire

 

WASHINGTON – Members of Congress heard Oct. 23 how a simple, inexpensive progesterone gel can reduce the number of premature births and delivery room deaths.

The briefing by Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate vice president of Women’s Health and founder of the new Office of Women’s Health at Wayne State University in Detroit, was the first in the Wayne State University Capitol Series “Improving Health Outcomes for Minority Women and Their Children,” held in partnership with U.S. Reps. Brenda Lawrence and Rashida Tlaib.

The vaginal gel, to be used topically, is for women found to have a shortened cervix. Studies show it decreases the rate of preterm births.

“I am truly concerned with the idea that each year nearly 700 women in the U.S. die as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications, and the risk of pregnancy-related death is three to four times as high for Black women,” said Lawrence, co-chair of the Congressional Women’s Caucus. “This series hosted in collaboration with Wayne State University will allow my colleagues and me to gather the information needed to create legislation that will help improve maternal health outcomes for more women of color and their children.”

The continued rise in its preterm birth rate earned the U.S. a C grade on the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. In 2018, 30 states saw their rates decline compared to the previous year and 10 states received a worse grade. The rates are highest among African American women.

“So many mothers and their children are depending on us to solve this crisis of high-risk pregnancies,” Tlaib said. “This is why the issue of preterm birth and pregnancy complications surrounding women of color deserves our full attention and resources. Our moms deserve to have safe and healthy pregnancies.”

Hassan led the research effort that developed the findings at the National Institutes of Health’s Perinatology Research Branch, housed at Wayne State University. The research branch’s role, specified by Congress, is to conduct research into ways to reduce the national rate of preterm birth and infant mortality as well as address the complications and causes of the ethnic/racial disparities that exist in these adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Hassan’s findings about the progesterone’s effectiveness led to the implementation of a citywide program in Detroit to educate and assist women at risk for preterm birth in delivering their babies to term. The program has been so successful in driving down the numbers of preterm birth that it is being implemented in other cities, including Flint, Michigan.

“Universal implementation of cervical ultrasound and vaginal progesterone is estimated to result in the prevention of preterm birth, with an annual savings of more than $500 to $750 million in health care costs for the U.S.,” Hassan said. “I hope to show Congress that its continued investment in this type of research pays a dividend in healthier mothers and children, while reducing the attendant costs of preterm birth.”

Special guest presenters included Kelle Moley M.D., senior vice president and chief scientific officer of March of Dimes, Nereida Correa, M.D., board member of the National Hispanic Medical Association and members of the Women’s Congressional Policy Institute’s board of directors.

 

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