Nearly 500,000 preterm births result from approximately 4 million births in the US annually, creating a signficant burden on the affected children, family, insurers, employers and others. While hospital costs for a normal full-term delivery average under $3,000 for the infant, NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) costs for preterm infants average from 10x (31-34 weeks), to 50x (28-30 weeks), to more than 100x (25-27 weeks) that amount. These initial hospital costs do not take into account significant longer term issues that can arise from preterm birth, such as cerebral palsy, chronic respiratory disorders, cognitive delays, and visual and hearing disorders.
No effective early risk identification test is currently marketed. Notably, our current data demonstrates an ability to identify women at higher risk of preterm birth at week 10-12 of pregnancy – up to 14 weeks earlier than a marketed test that is used for women who are showing signs of labor or for women with a previous history of preterm birth. This critical time advantage may provide physicians an opportunity to enhance the care path for many more pregnant moms with known effective at-risk protocols. Just like in heart disease, or cancer, or any other medical condition, early detection of risk can be one of the most important steps in prevention.
Preventing Preterm Birth Is Important
The Mom and Baby Balance
Pregnancy is recognized to be a multifaceted balancing act between a mom and her baby. A mom's immune system must be able to tolerate the growing baby. The placenta must function well to allow for essential "supplies" to be provided from the mom to the baby. There are many kinds of "stresses" that the mom's systems have to learn how to manage, like stresses from environmental, chemical, physical, or infection sources. And there are ways a mom's body keeps certain inflammation and coagulation processes in check in order to keep the baby in the womb until the natural 40 week process has come to its successful delivery near the expected due date.
In most pregnancies, these balances are successfully maintained and a healthy "full term" baby is welcomed to his or her new family.
However, in some pregnancies, this network of balances can be interrupted and spontaneous preterm labor can result in the delivery of a "preemie." Most of the time, these early deliveries occur in the week 35-37 time frame, but some children are born as early as week 23, and the earlier cases can lead to a much more challenging road ahead for the infant and the family.