PPB Research Programs

The following information describes the branch’s research programs and program areas. 

Program Officials: Nahida Chakhtoura, Maurice Davis, Guillermina Girardi, John Ilekis, and Monica Longo

PPB supports research on maternal health from pre-pregnancy through pregnancy and postpartum. The research not only explores how best to prepare a human body for healthy pregnancy, but also identifies practices that are associated with both positive and negative outcomes before conception, during pregnancy, and post-delivery. These activities include leading NICHD efforts related to reducing maternal morbidity and mortality, and leading and coordinating the NIH-wide Implementing a Maternal health and PRegnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) Initiative.

Within this context, PPB supports research on:

  • Pre-pregnancy health
  • Placenta development and complications
  • Fetal development
  • Pregnancy and pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes
  • Labor and delivery

PPB uses a wide range of grants and cooperative agreements to support research in this area, including support for the following multicenter networks:

Program Officials: Nahida Chakhtoura, Maurice Davis, and John Ilekis

PPB promotes studies of factors affecting the initiation and completion of labor, including the physiology, endocrinology, and medical management of birth. Of special concern are the causes and prevention of preterm labor, threatened and habitual pregnancy loss, prolonged and dysfunctional labor, and obstructed labor.

Program Officials: Nahida Chakhtoura and Marion Koso-Thomas

PPB supports basic and clinical studies on the causes, prevention, treatment, and medical management of conditions associated with or resulting from birth and the newborn period including:

  • Birth asphyxia and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
  • Congenital anomalies
  • Jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia)
  • Conditions resulting from preterm birth:
    • Respiratory problems, such as respiratory distress syndrome and bronchopulmonary dysplasia
    • Cardiac and circulatory problems, such as hypoglycemia, patent ductus arteriosus, and transfusions
    • Infection, including early and late onset sepsis
    • Digestive problems, such as necrotizing enterocolitis and spontaneous intestinal perforations
    • Eye problems, including retinopathy of prematurity
    • Brain problems, including intraventricular hemorrhage

Within this portfolio area, PPB supports the Neonatal Research Network (NRN), as well as the Advancing Clinical Trials in Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (ACT NOW) portion of the NIH-wide Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative.

Program Officials: Nahida Chakhtoura, Maurice Davis, and Marion Koso-Thomas

PPB also focuses on aspects of birth, newborn, and infant care that may influence the long-term health of children and mothers, such as:

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDs)
  • Neurodevelopmental outcomes for high-risk infants, including those born extremely preterm

Related to SIDS/SUID, the branch supports studies to find the underlying mechanisms of SIDS and its probable causes, ways to identify infants at risk of SIDS/SUID, and potential risk-reduction strategies for SIDS/SUID. In addition, the branch provides scientific expertise and the research foundation for the Safe to Sleep® campaign, which educates parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers about ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related SUID.

Safe to Sleep® was originally called Back to Sleep® to highlight its primary recommendation that healthy babies be placed to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS. Since the campaign started in 1994, the percentage of infants placed on their backs to sleep has increased dramatically, and overall U.S. SIDS rates have declined significantly.

Decades of NRN research has helped researchers develop prediction models for neurodevelopment outcomes among infants born extremely preterm. Clinicians can access the Extremely Preterm Birth Outcomes Tool to learn more and access the model.

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