Promoting a healthy pregnancy is paramount to NICHD, which leads and supports studies to increase awareness of the need for preconception and prenatal care.
Studies include efforts focused on:
- Preparing for a healthy pregnancy. NICHD supports preconception care to help promote the health of all women of reproductive age before conception to improve pregnancy-related outcomes.
- Preventing neural tube defects. Research from NICHD and other organizations led the U.S. Public Health Service to recommend that all women capable of becoming pregnant get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. Taking folic acid prior to conception can reduce the risk for neural tube defects, a primary goal of NICHD research.
- Reducing the risk of complications during pregnancy. NICHD seeks to understand maternal physiology, genetic and environmental variables, and conditions and treatments during pregnancy that contribute to adverse outcomes. Research is focused on discovering the mechanisms involved in the pathophysiological states of pregnancy such as preterm labor, premature rupture of membranes, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and stillbirth, as well as the health impact of pregnancy-related disorders on the mother and infant and the effect of maternal infections on fetal development. The researchers aim to improve treatment and prevention, learn more about the effects of maternal medications and the mother's use and abuse of drugs on fetal development, and understand more about the complications that pregnant adolescents may encounter.
- Supporting studies related to the probable causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). These studies include the association between prenatal exposure to alcohol and tobacco, with the goal of improving prenatal screening tools to identify infants at risk for SIDS and ultimately decreasing fetal and infant mortality.