March Of Dimes Turns Research Focus To Preventing Premature Birth
When Reggie Rideout's daughter Maya was born seven years ago, she weighed just 1 lb. 15 oz.
"I was aiming for a St. Patrick's baby and ended up with a Christmas baby," said Rideout. Her daughter was born at 27 weeks. “I was just so unprepared. And I’m a planner....All of a sudden, not only are you not pregnant anymore, but your baby is very sick.”
Despite Maya's tough start, she is doing well now. "She's a first-grader. She's healthy and intelligent. You would never look at her and know she was born actually a little over three months early," said Rideout.
Pediatrician F. Sessions Cole, who was part of Maya's medical team in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) at St. Louis Children's Hospital, credits Maya's successful outcome in part to advances in medical care and in part to her parents.
"When I first started practicing, I’m not sure Maya would have qualified for any sort of intervention because we didn’t know how to treat her,” said Cole. But thanks to advances in research and to the care Rideout took while Maya was in the womb, she was able to live.
A lot of that research was funded by the March of Dimes, which was started 75 years ago to combat polio. After the battle against polio was won, the organization switched its focus to preemies.
While the mortality rate of preterm babies has gone down, a lot of risk factors still exist. And a lot of babies in the United States are being born premature - one out of eight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Cole, who is on the March of Dimes national board, research funded by March of Dimes is now targeted towards preventing premature birth in the first place.
"There are many potential biologic contributors to preterm birth," said Cole. "Ms. Rideout had a health problem herself that prompted Maya's preterm birth, but there are also infections, there are also other medical problems in moms, and about half the time we don't know what causes preterm birth."
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