NIH-funded technique enables automatic detection of placental compartments, oxygen status and structural abnormalities.
NICHD issues News Releases and Media Advisories to the news media. Spotlight and Research Feature articles explain NICHD research findings and public health issues to the general public. An Item of Interest is a short announcement of relevant information, such as a notable staff change.
Science Update: Postpartum depression, reduced breastfeeding may help account for developmental delays seen in children born to women with depression during pregnancy
Researchers know that children born to mothers who have depression in pregnancy are at risk for developmental delays but haven’t known why. Now, a National Institutes of Health study suggests that depression persisting after pregnancy and reduced breastfeeding may account for at least part of the increased risk. Based on their results, researchers conclude that physicians may be able to reduce this risk by offering treatment for depression both during and after pregnancy and by counseling new mothers on how to breastfeed successfully.
Science Update: NIH researchers map cellular activity underlying infection-induced preterm labor
Mouse study improves understanding of events leading to preterm labor and birth
Science Update: NIH-funded study in mice suggests bacteria rely on metal tolerance to cause pregnancy-related infection
A bacterial species that causes chorioamnionitis—an infection of the placenta and fetal membranes that often leads to preterm birth—relies on a gene for metal tolerance to hijack immune cells, suggests a study in mice funded by the National Institutes of Health. The findings indicate that strategies to target the gene and its products could eliminate one of the most common causes of preterm birth.
Spotlight: Scientific Advances from the Division of Intramural Research
The Division of Intramural Research provides fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems through basic, clinical, and population-based research.
Release: Prenatal steroid treatment may improve survival, reduce complications for extremely preterm infants
Steroid treatment before birth appears to improve survival and reduce complications among extremely preterm infants, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Antenatal steroid therapy, given to women at risk of preterm delivery, causes the fetal lungs to mature and has been shown to improve survival and reduce complications among infants born from 24 to 34 weeks of pregnancy. However, previous studies of the treatment for infants born between the 22nd and 23rd week—those at greatest risk for death and disability—were inconclusive.
Release: NIH launches $8 million prize competition to reduce maternal deaths in regions that lack maternity care
The National Institutes of Health is offering up to $8 million in cash prizes to accelerate development of technologies to improve maternal health outcomes for those who live in areas lacking access to maternity care.
Release: Umbilical cord milking may improve health in non-vigorous term and near-term infants
A treatment to move blood from the umbilical cord into an infant’s body may improve the overall health of newborns classified as non-vigorous—limp, pale and with minimal breathing, suggests a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The procedure, known as umbilical cord milking, involves gently squeezing the cord between the thumb and forefinger and slowly pushing the blood into the abdomen.
Science Update: Uterine stretch protein linked to preterm labor
Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have identified a protein that allows the uterus to stretch to accommodate a developing fetus. When the protein is deactivated, the uterus begins the contractions culminating in labor. The findings raise the possibility of preventing preterm labor by developing drugs to target the protein.
Science Update: Placental inflammation could explain link between air pollution and pregnancy complications, NIH-funded study in mice suggests
The increase in pregnancy complications linked to air pollution exposure could result from the pollutants’ direct effects on the placenta, suggests a study in mice funded by the National Institutes of Health. Placentas of mice exposed to a mixture of common urban air pollutants before and during pregnancy were inflamed and had a loss of blood vessel cells. The study authors say the findings could provide insight into how air pollution might affect pregnancies and lead to strategies for preventing pregnancy complications.
Director's Corner: Visualizing The Placenta, a Critical but Poorly Understood Organ
The placenta supports pregnancy and influences the lifelong health of both mother and child. Yet it is the least understood, and least studied, of all human organs. In a guest post for the NIH Director’s Blog, Dr. Bianchi discusses work from NICHD’s Human Placenta Project to understand how the placenta functions in real time during pregnancy.
Science Update: Fertility treatments may increase risk for preterm birth, NIH-funded study suggests
Infertility treatments with ovulation drugs or intrauterine insemination—in which sperm is placed directly into the uterus—are associated with a higher likelihood of preterm birth, suggests a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Media Advisory: Hydrocortisone does not prevent lung complication in extremely preterm infants
Hydrocortisone is no more effective than placebo at preventing damage that can result from oxygen and ventilator therapy necessary to keep preterm infants alive, according to research funded by the National Institutes of Health. The study of a potential treatment for the condition, known as bronchopulmonary dysplasia, appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Science Update: Maternal pregnancy complications may increase risk of infant health effects, NIH-funded study suggests
Life-threatening pregnancy complications known as severe maternal morbidity (SMM) appear to be associated with an increased length of hospital stay for infants and an increase in the cost of caring for them, suggests a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The findings support the hypothesis that infants of mothers with SMM may also be at risk for severe complications. The authors concluded that helping patients to reduce their risk factors—in early pregnancy or before conception—may reduce the chances for SMM and improve the health of infants.
Director's Corner: Survival of the Tiniest
How early can a baby be born and not only survive but thrive? Dr. Bianchi discusses continued progress in saving extremely preterm infants and highlights NICHD’s efforts to prevent preterm births and improve the care of premature babies.
Science Update: High-dose DHA influences immune responses during pregnancy, may reduce risk of preterm birth
Taking supplemental docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) during pregnancy may decrease the risk of preterm birth. A new NICHD-supported study offers a potential explanation for this effect by suggesting that a daily 1,000-milligram dose of DHA influences certain inflammatory immune responses linked to childbirth.
Media Advisory: Survival rate increases for extremely preterm infants in NIH-funded research network
The survival rate of extremely preterm infants born from 2013 through 2018 in a large network of U.S. research centers improved to 78.3%, compared to 76% for infants born in the network from 2008 to 2012, according to researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Science Update: NIH study identifies potential prenatal risk factors for suicide
An individual’s risk for death by suicide may begin before they are born, suggests a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. The authors compared pregnancy and birth records of nearly 50,000 individuals born between 1959 and 1966 to death records through 2016. They found that suicide rates were higher for males, white people, and for those who were among the younger siblings in a family. Other risk factors included having a parent with less than a high school education, having a parent who worked a manual labor job, and having a mother with a high rate of pregnancy complications or who smoked during pregnancy.
Spotlight: Selected NICHD Research Advances of 2021
Read about NICHD’s research findings and activities from 2021.
Item of Interest: PregSource® Mobile App Allows Access from Anywhere
It just got easier to participate in the PregSource®: Crowdsourcing to Understand Pregnancy research project. The free app allows participants to track their weight, sleep, mood, and other features of their pregnancy in just a few taps.