For years, doctors haven’t known exactly why some women give birth prematurely. Often,that leaves families with more questions than answers when they lose a child too soon.
But researchers have recently made a groundbreaking discovery.
The March of Dimes has helped assemble doctors, scientists, engineers and mathematicians to study around 43,000 pregnant women and the length of their pregnancies. By doing so, they can now predict, with more accuracy, why some will give birth prematurely.
“As a mother, you always want to know what is happening to your child. You want to protect them as much as possible and you want to do the most you can,” said Andrea Overholt, who lost a child prematurely.
Six years ago, Andrea Overholt, lost one of her premature newborn twins .
“It’s bitter that we lost our son, but we do believe that he was there, protecting Anya, so that she can be born,” Overholt said.
From that moment on, six-year-old, Anya, was no longer a twin.
Anya, Andrea, her husband, Michael, and their son Lucas, are one of many families that have lost a child prematurely.
According to the March of Dimes, pre-term birth, or children born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, is the number one cause of death for babies in the United States.
“Obviously, it is a sad thing to lose a child, and that never goes away. But it helps propel others to try to do everything they can to try to change that story from sad to a happy story,” Overholt said.
But due to new research, hope could be in sight.
“The March of Dimes has increasingly recognized how important this area of prematurity is,” said Dr. Lou Muglia, with the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center.
Thanks to the relentless pursuit of answers by the March of Dimes, a major research breakthrough may help determine which mothers are at risk for pre-term birth.
“When you let the mom’s biology tell you what is important, you know you are really on solid ground,” Dr. Muglia said.
Dr. Lou Muglia, the principal investigator of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center, says they may have finally determined what factors within a mother and her child contributes to pre-term birth. With that discovery comes the ability to devise tests to predict the likelihood of having a baby early.
“Before, we didn’t know where to start, but now we know where to start because we know which pathways are really critical,” Dr. Muglia said.
“We are fighting for the health of all moms and babies, and when we don’t know what 50% of pre-term births are, discoveries like this are huge,” said Annsley Stewart with the March of Dimes.
It’s proof: Your donations can make a difference.
“When you donate to an organization, you are donating for these breakthroughs. And you want to see your dollars in action and that’s what we are seeing are our donors dollars making a difference,” Stewart said.
As for the Overholts, they can find comfort knowing families may not have to go through the tragedy they faced with the son, Donovan.
“Donovan isn’t alive, but he’s an angel. But now I know that Donovan is now an angel and I love him because he is always in our hearts,” Overholt said.
There is still a long way to go with much more research to be done. But now they are set up to make an impact on the issue of prematurity prevention.