UWA researchers under the leadership of Senior Australian of the Year Professor John Newnham have published results which indicate that the rate of potentially fatal preterm births in Western Australian hospitals can be safely reduced by up to 20% when a coordinated series of interventions is applied to pregnant women. The paper,  published in PLOS ONE, reveals a 7.6% reduction in preterm births across WA and a 20% reduction in WA’s major perinatal centre, King Edward Memorial Hospital, one year after introducing the WA Preterm Birth Prevention Initiative. John said the initiative was underpinned by seven main interventions including avoiding ending pregnancies before 39 weeks gestation, prescribing vaginal progesterone to women with a shortened cervix or a history of spontaneous preterm birth, and strongly discouraging smoking whilst pregnant.  A new dedicated preterm birth prevention clinic was established at KEMH where all the interventions were promoted. He said the benefit was strongest in women who would not usually be identified as high risk, indicating that the program should be applied to the entire population of pregnant women, not just those with risk factors. The study also showed a significant reduction in preterm births in the Kimberley. “The reduction could be attributed to the introduction of free progesterone treatment – which is usually expensive – and the commencement of a midwifery continuity of care program which has been proven to prevent pregnancy complications,” John said.

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