UNBORN BABIES AT RISK.... And 90% of Mothers Ignorant of the Facts
15 June 2005
Action Medical Research has said that nearly 90% of pregnant women are ignorant of health risks to their unborn child – but it’s not their fault.
The charity, which is aiming to raise £3m over the next three years for research into prematurity and pregnancy complications, says that not enough money is spent on saving babies’ lives.
With only a fraction of the money that is poured into cancer research spent on finding answers to the problems that put 70,000 babies in special care each year, the charity says that it is not surprising that few parents perceive birth complications as being a threat to either baby or mother.
Many believe that birth complications are far rarer than they actually are and that Doctors can pre-diagnose prematurity and stop early labour; however this is often not the case.
With 1 in 10 babies being born too early and at greater risk of health conditions that could affect them for the rest of their lives, the charity says that more money must be spent on keeping babies in the womb for longer.
Yet the Government’s spend on this area of research is just one tenth of that spent on higher profile conditions such as cancer.
Action Medical Research says that this is simply not enough and is focusing its attention and fundraising on this ‘Cinderella’ area of research with its Touching Tiny Lives Campaign.
The prestigious 50 year old charity has funded decades of cutting-edge research and is behind breakthroughs such as the polio vaccine in the UK, ultrasound scanning in pregnancy and discovering the link between taking folic acid and preventing spina bifida.
Simon Moore, Chief Executive of Action Medical Research said, “There has been a lot of media comment recently about the point at which a baby’s life should be considered viable. However, we believe that more must be done to stop babies from being born too soon.
“The answer lies in preventing premature birth and pregnancy complications by helping our incredibly talented research teams to find the answers to these complex problems.
“Even in this high-tech age babies are dying unnecessarily because even the very best researchers cannot work unless they have sufficient funding.
“They often tell us that although lifesaving breakthroughs are possible they are hampered in their work because funding in this area is so limited in comparison to other conditions.
“Over 3,000 babies die in their first year and premature birth is the single biggest cause. We believe that each baby that dies is one baby too many, especially when the UK has some of the best researchers in the world who could make premature birth a thing of the past.
“We want our Touching Tiny Lives Campaign to save lives by raising money and awareness of the lack of funding in this area.”
The Touching Tiny Lives campaign is already making tremendous steps forward, researcher Professor Phil Bennett at Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College, London is working on groundbreaking work to stop early labour.
One of the top researchers in his field, Professor Bennett believes that premature labour could be caused by the way that some mothers’ bodies overreact to the simplest of infections during pregnancy.
The £122,127 study aims to find out why some women develop serious inflammation of the membranes surrounding their developing baby; often with catastrophic effects on the pregnancy.
Professor Bennett’s theory is that tiny parts of the immune system called Toll receptors, which act as ‘look-outs’ for infection, get spurred into action unnecessarily in certain women.
If he can find his answers, then doctors may be able to pinpoint those women who are at greater risk and then treat them with either anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics to stop them going into early, and possibly devastating, labour.
Professor Bennett said, “It is fantastic that Action Medical Research is funding this hugely important area of research. It is tremendously important; tragically we still have over 3,000 babies dying within their first year in the UK and premature birth is the single biggest cause.
“Action Medical Research has recognised that more funding is needed to research the issues surrounding prematurity and pregnancy complications and has established its Touching Tiny Lives campaign to do just that.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
In 2000-01 The Government spent an estimated £190 million on cancer research.
In 2001-02 The Government’s Medical Research Council spent £19.1million on its Reproductive health portfolio (this includes normal and abnormal fetal and placental development and growth as well as conditions affecting pregnancy and childbirth)
A survey, commissioned by Mothercare in support of Action Medical Research’s ‘Touching Tiny Lives’ campaign, revealed that premature birth is considered to be a much rarer occurrence than it actually is.
The survey showed that half of all British women believe that only 1% or less of babies are born prematurely.
In fact, a baby is born prematurely every 11 minutes, making up approximately 10% of all births in Britain. Around 130 babies are born prematurely in the UK every day.
The survey also discovered that millions of British women believe premature labour simply won’t happen to them, leading to 88% of mothers failing to read up on the subject while pregnant.
The research highlighted that women held a series of worrying misconceptions about premature birth:
· 1 in 5 think that doctors can virtually always pre-diagnose premature births, this is untrue.
· 1 in 3 also wrongly believe that doctors can usually stop premature labour
· 1 in 10 believe premature birth only happens when people have done something wrong to trigger it e.g. smoking during pregnancy or having had an accident. This can lead to mothers blaming themselves for something that is not their fault
The research commissioned by Mothercare was conducted by an independent YouGov poll amongst 2,000 people in the UK in August 2004
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