Archive for June 12th, 2010

Premature Births: Fallon Health Plans

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

preemieWith half a million premature babies born each year in the United States, it’s amazing that the cause of many of these early births is still a mystery in the medical world.  In “Premature births still a medical mystery” by Rachael Rettner of Live Science, Rettner discusses recent developments about the combination of factors leading to premature labor and delivery.  A traditional pregnancy lasts between 38 and 42 weeks, or approximately 9 months.  Any birth at 37 weeks or before is considered a premature baby, often resulting in underdeveloped systems and medical issues.

Around half of premature deliveries can be easily explained.  When a mother is carrying multiple children at once, there is a much greater chance that she will not carry the babies full term.  Many labors are also induced or c-sections performed because of complications with the pregnancy.  In those early labors that don’t fall into either of these categories though, science is working to determine what is causing them.  The three things that they believe are important to further research are genetics, infections, and a woman’s social and lifestyle environment.

Pathogenic infections are believed to cause preterm births because they make a pregnant woman’s immune system work in overdrive, which can trigger labor.  Scientists think that infections may actually cause up to a quarter of premature births.  It’s also believed that a woman’s genetics may play a significant role in determining whether they will have a premature labor and delivery.  Premature births run in some families and women are more likely to have subsequent premature births if they already have had one.  Environmental factors also play a role in premature birth rates.  Areas with high poverty levels tend to have more women delivering prematurely based on healthcare availability, housing, their jobs, and social norms.  Income, stress levels, and eating and drinking habits may also play a role.

As scientists learn more about normal pregnancies and labor, they will better be able to translate that knowledge to premature labor and birth cases.  The main goal is avoiding premature births to help babies and children be healthier and reduce insurance costs for Fallon Health Plans and other health insurance companies.