New Labor Detector Device To Stop Premature Births

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With the news of Michelle Duggar’s premature baby named Josie, came new focus on ways to combat premature birth. Thanks to students at Johns Hopkins University, a new device may soon do just that, earlier and better than current techniques. This device can potentially save infant lives as premature birth can cause death.

Michelle Duggar had a pregnancy condition called preeclampsia. This causes high blood pressure and swelling in legs and feet. This can also cause premature birth as the expectant mother’s life may become endangered. There are other causes of premature birth, as well.

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Nearly 13 million babies are born prematurely (before 37 weeks gestation) currently and this is a concern for physicians and researchers. One issue is that the current device used to detect premature labor has limits. The current device is used externally, strapped around the woman’s abdomen. This can complicate things. For instance, for obese pregnant woman, the device may not be sensitive enough to pick up signals of premature labor. Another limit is if the woman is early in pregnancy.

The new device would be inserted internally through the vaginal canal as a cervical ring. Within this cervical ring are sensors designed to pick up signals associated with uterine contractions. This places the device close to where the signals come from, bypassing the abdomen which imposes many of the limits of detection currently faced. An estimate of cost-saving is at more than $44,000 per patient per prevented premature birth.

With earlier detection, doctors may be able to delay birth to up to six weeks, giving extra time for babies’ lungs and other body parts to mature inside the womb. Currently, doctors can only prolong birth by mere days because the early labor is not detected soon enough. The device has a provisional patent and still needs to go through trials to gain FDA approval but the future looks good for expectant mothers who are at high-risk for premature births.

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