Magazine article Science News

Hormonal Clock Predicts Premature Births

Magazine article Science News

Hormonal Clock Predicts Premature Births

Article excerpt

About 6 months into a pregnancy, some anxious parents-to-be stash a suitcase at the front door and nervously wait day and night for that moment when the mother's labor starts and the mad rush to the hospital begins.

Future parents may know better when that dash will begin, if a report in the May Nature Medicine proves accurate. More important, the new work may help physicians understand and prevent premature delivery, which often places the life of the still-developing fetus at great risk.

A team of English and Australian researchers, led by Roger Smith of the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, Australia, found that the amount of a particular hormone in the mother's blood can predict, at a remarkably early point in gestation, whether birth will occur prematurely, on time, or late.

The researchers followed the pregnancies of 485 women. At 16 to 20 weeks into the normal 40-week gestation period, they measured the maternal blood concentrations of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), a chemical that the placenta begins to secrete early in the second trimester.

Smith's group compared those early measurements to times of birth. The 24 women who delivered prematurely (defined as less than 37 weeks of gestation) had shown an average of 3.64 times more CRH in their blood than women who gave birth on time (37 to 42 weeks). Those who delivered late had had slightly less CRH than the on-time women, although this case was not as statistically sound.

The authors and John R.G. Challis of the University of Western Ontario in London, in an accompanying editorial, interpret the new data as a ticking "placental clock'' that determines the length of a pregnancy. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.