Study furthers premature birth prevention efforts

First study of its kind, conducted by Afula, Haifa doctors, helps obstetricians choose right drug to prevent premature birth.

A PREMATURE BABY born in an Israeli hospital 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Forum for Premature Babies)
A PREMATURE BABY born in an Israeli hospital 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Forum for Premature Babies)
The first comprehensive study of its kind at Emek Medical Center in Afula will help obstetricians/ gynecologists to find the proper drug to prevent premature birth.
The study, carried out with the Rappaport Medical Faculty at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, involved 145 Israeli women and was recently published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“Premature delivery is the leading cause of illness and death in infants,” said associate clinical Professor Raed Salim. Seven percent of births are premature, with the most serious problems occurring at less than 28 weeks of gestation, when the survival level reaches 80 percent, he said.
The aim of specialists in the field is to extend as much as possible the age at which babies are born to prevent prematurity and hold back delivery of women in premature labor for 48 hours, said Salim. This time period can allow for the transfer of the woman to a medical center with a neonatal intensive care unit or for medication to be administered which would ripen the fetus’s lungs, Salim continued.
“Until now, it was not clear to doctors what drug should best be chosen for these purposes,” he said.
In the Emek research, pregnant women who were admitted for hospitalization in high-risk pregnancy units for premature births were randomly divided into two groups. If labor was not halted an hour after admission, one group received a drug named atosiban, while the other received nifedipine. Seventy-five women received nifedipine, while the rest got atosiban.
When the results were analyzed, atosiban was found to be more effective in preventing the premature delivery over a short period, while those who received the nifedipine held on to the fetus for at least a week – proving the second drug to be significantly more effective.
Prof. Eliezer Shalev, dean of the medical faculty and head of the ob/gyn branch at Emek, said that on the basis of the study, solid facts are available to know what drug to use.
Women whose delivery has to be postponed for 48 hours can take atosiban, while those whose birth had to be postponed for a week or more should be given nifedipine.