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Preventing premature births and stillbirths in Ontario

Nov 28, 2017

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Care providers and families across Ontario, together with data experts and researchers, are committed to significantly reducing preventable preterm births and stillbirths.

The newly formed Alliance for the Prevention of Preterm Birth and Stillbirth will spread knowledge about screening tests and treatment options proven to reduce preventable preterm births and stillbirths in the province, improving infant health outcomes and quality of care for families.

Preterm babies are prone to serious illness or death during the neonatal period and throughout life. Premature birth, occurring in approximately eight per cent of births, can often be prevented. In Ontario, there are advances in research that are ready to be included in standards of care across the province.

“Preterm birth and its complications are immensely stressful for families and also expensive for Canadian taxpayers,” says Dr. Jon Barrett, Medical Director of the Alliance for the Prevention of Preterm Birth and Stillbirth, and Division Chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Sunnybrook’s Aubrey & Marla Dan Centre for Women & Babies.

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Pregnant?

There are ways to prevent your baby from being born too soon.

And ways to protect against having a stillbirth.

A new group in Ontario is working with pregnant people and their families to reduce preventable preterm births and stillbirths. The Alliance for the Prevention of Preterm Birth and Stillbirth in Ontario wants you to speak up and talk to your family doctor, obstetrician or midwife in early pregnancy about making your pregnancy as healthy as possible.

What you should know:

Feeling your baby move is a sign it is well. If your baby's movements have slowed down or stopped after 24 weeks of pregnancy, don't wait until your next visit. Contact your health care provider right away to have your baby's heart beat monitored.

Between 16 and 24 weeks in your pregnancy, your maternity care provider will offer an anatomical ultrasound. Your cervix will be measured, as a shorter cervix can mean you have a higher chance of preterm birth.

It's good to know whether your cervix is shorter in mid-pregnancy because there are things you can do to lower your chance of preterm birth. Ask your doctor or midwife if you need low-dose aspirin or progesterone.

Don't be afraid to speak up and ask your doctor or midwife about these three things!

“There are simple steps we can and should be taking to help families and care providers prevent these babies being born too soon. We also know 700 infants are stillborn each year in Ontario, and we can prevent many of these losses using increased screening and fetal movement monitoring.”

The Alliance will focus efforts on reducing prematurity rates by coordinating information and services across Ontario. This will include setting up a screening program to identify pregnant women at higher risk for premature birth, as well as initiating a treatment program for mothers who have previously delivered a preterm baby.

“We know mothers who delivered prematurely in a previous pregnancy will have a 40 per cent reduction in delivering prematurely in a subsequent pregnancy if they take baby aspirin,” adds Dr. Barrett. “But this simple, inexpensive intervention is not being done on a wide-scale basis.”

Members of the Alliance include families, hospitals, regional maternal and newborn networks, care providers across the maternal and infant health care system, women’s health organizations, researchers, BORN Ontario (the data registry for maternal and infant health information) and the Provincial Council for Maternal and Child Health.

The Alliance continues to promote new partnerships with groups interested in sharing in the initiative.

Questions about the Alliance?

Please contact Wendy Katherine at wendy.katherine@sunnybrook.ca