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Study: Five Steps to Reduce America's Premature Births, Part 2

Our last post introduced a two-part series on recent research that pointed to five ways to reduce the rate of premature births in rich countries. By targeting these five items, the United States could reduce as much as eight percent of its more than 500,000 annual premature births.

While many babies experience healthy development after a premature birth, some infants can suffer from lifelong conditions like cerebral palsy or serious learning disabilities. The long-term consequences of an unnecessary premature birth can be devastating for new parents.

The study's first recommendation is to cut back on elective c-sections and induced labor. As medical technology has improved, more parents are comfortable intentionally giving birth earlier - sometimes as much as a month before full term. Experts say that mothers should wait to deliver until 39 weeks or more. Elective deliveries before that point run the risk of serious harms to the infant.

Researchers also said that smoking while pregnant contributes to a high risk of premature birth. If more women stopped smoking, they could reduce the frequency of early deliveries.

Finally, the study found that reducing the number of multiple embryo transfers during assistive reproductive procedures, taking progesterone supplements, and seeking a cervical cerclage procedure would all help as well. Cervical cerclage procedures may be appropriate for some women - a doctor inserts a suture to keep the cervix more closed until the end of the pregnancy.

While these steps can help reduce 8 percent of premature deliveries in the United States, many families will still experience the devastation of infant injuries after an unnecessarily premature birth. These victims should consult with a birthing injury and medical malpractice lawyer to discuss their options to provide for the child's future needs.

Source: US News & World Report, "5 Steps Would Lower Preemie Rates in Richest Countries: Study," Nov. 16, 2012 

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