Improving Outcomes for Premature Babies: What Research is Being Done?

March of Dimes is dedicated to ending preventable preterm births and is taking a multi-faceted approach to research. While the causes of preterm birth are not always known, multiple pregnancies, infections, and chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure can be contributing factors. Additionally, there may be a genetic component. Research has shown that prophylactic indomethacin use in infants admitted to the Toddler Program was associated with a substantial improvement in survival.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) is conducting and supporting research on

preterm birth

to reduce incidence, prevent adverse effects, and improve outcomes for mothers and babies. Nutrition, infection prevention, and lung function are all important considerations for premature babies, particularly those born with very low birth weight (VLBW). Stanford is using innovative neuromonitoring devices to monitor brain activity and oxygen levels in the brains of fragile newborns in order to minimize brain injuries in the neonatal intensive care unit. Additionally, research has shown that regular parental contact and skin-to-skin “kangaroo” care can increase weight gain, reduce the likelihood of sepsis, and improve survival and neurodevelopment.

Unfortunately, in low-income environments, half of babies born at 32 weeks or less (2 months early) die due to a lack of feasible and cost-effective care such as heat, breastfeeding support, and basic care for infections and breathing difficulties. The World Health Organization (WHO) regularly updates clinical guidelines for the treatment of pregnancy and mothers with preterm birth or at risk of preterm delivery, as well as guidelines on the care of premature babies and babies with low birth weight.

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