Touching Lives - September 2016
Delaying early labour, saving babies’ lives
Premature babies are incredibly vulnerable. Sadly, some don’t survive. A new treatment is being tested that could help prolong pregnancy in women at risk of giving birth too soon.
Premature birth is the biggest killer of babies in the UK. Tragically, around 1,200 babies die here each year after being born too soon. Many who survive develop lifelong problems such as cerebral palsy, learning difficulties, blindness or hearing loss.
Treatment with a hormone called progesterone can reduce a woman’s risk of giving birth early but it doesn’t work for everyone.
With Action funding, a London-based research team, led by Professor Mark Johnson at Imperial College London, is now investigating whether combining progesterone with another medicine works better.
This medicine, called aminophylline, is already used in pregnant women to treat asthma and to help breathing in very premature babies.
The new treatment is being tested on a small group of pregnant women who are known to be at high risk of going into labour too early. If it proves successful, the team will go on to set up a much larger clinical trial in many more women.
“Our ultimate goal is to stop babies from being born too soon, save their lives and protect them from disability,” says Professor Johnson.