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Five actions could 'cut preterm birth rates by 5%'

New research has suggested that the implementation of five different measures could help to prevent as many as 58,000 premature births per year in countries like the UK.

Preterm birth, before the 37th week of pregnancy, is one of the main causes of death among newborn babies and experts have indicated that a combination of five specific strategies could cut preterm birth rates by 5% on average in 39 high-income countries.

The research was conducted by an international team, including members from charity Save the Children, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization.

The recommendations include helping women to quit smoking, giving supplements of the hormone progesterone to women with high-risk pregnancies and cutting down on multiple embryo transfers during In-Vitro Fertilisation procedures.

Experts also advocate the elimination of early caesarean deliveries and inductions of labour unless it is totally medically necessary, while they say a stitching procedure to close the womb entrance and stop it opening too early (cervical cerclage) should be used on high-risk women.

Children born early can have breathing problems, anaemia, mental impairment and be susceptible to infection but the advice, which is published in The Lancet, suggests that 58,000 babies could be prevented from being born too early every year by 2015.

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