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Pre-term birth study launched at Intermountain Medical Centers

MURRAY, Utah – There’s a new study underway at Intermountain Medical Center that researchers say could help prevent pre-term births.

Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center are calling it the first and largest study of its kind. They’re hoping to identify high-risk women as early as possible and determine which medical interventions are most effective in preventing pre-term births. The goal is to enroll 10,000 women.

Pre-term birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Women would be given a specialized blood test, which screens for various proteins in the blood that are proven markers of premature birth.

“Until now, we were waiting for patients to come in with symptoms and trying to stop them once they started. That's like saying we're going to not prevent your heart attack, let's just wait until you're having chest pains then we'll deal with it,” said Dr. Sean Esplin, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Intermountain Medical Center.

Doctors can begin treatment early to decrease the risk, and women can have healthier babies.

“If we can just keep someone who is going to deliver at 24 weeks pregnant for another one or two weeks, we reduce the rate of neonatal death,” said Esplin.

In 2007, Christina Merrill lost her first child, a girl, when she was 25 weeks along.

“It was terrible. I won't lie," said Merrill.

Merrill participated in a similar study. Doctors were able to begin treatment early during her second pregnancy and delivered a healthy, baby boy.

She’s happy other women will get the same opportunity.

“When I lost her, it was all about the hope that I had for her in the future. What she would sound like when she laughed, what she would do in her life. Not having those things has driven me to make sure that nobody else has to have that experience," she said.

The study is being conducted at all major centers at Intermountain. If you’re interested, you can talk to your doctor.