Premature Births And Endometriosis

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A study published in February 2009 shows that endometriosis, a gynecological disease affecting fertility and causing great pain, doubles the risk for premature birth. In the UK alone, the disease affects over 2 million women, while as many as 60,000 babies are born prematurely every year in England.

Doubled Risk

Professor David Healy of Australia’s Monash University led the study which was underwritten by the medical research charity, the Bupa Foundation. Healy examined 6,750 births, including births resulting from IVF procedures and found that those women who suffered from endometriosis had twice the risk of having a premature birth, with no regard to having undergone IVF treatment. It is believed that the results of this study can be used to help identify pregnant women who have a higher risk for premature labor and births by dint of ultrasound technology which can be used to detect endometriosis early in pregnancy. Professor Healy’s study results can be seen in their entirety in the international medical journal known as Fertility and Sterility.

Healy explained that this research demonstrates for the first time ever that there is a clear link between endometriosis and premature labor and birth. As a result of this work, doctors will now be able to pay closer attention to pregnant women who have a higher risk for these complications. “The key will be early diagnosis, especially as up to 44 percent of women show no symptoms of endometriosis,” says Dr. Healy.

The Bupa Foundation provided Professor Healy and his team with a grant of £170,000 to carry out this study. Vice Chairman of the Bupa Foundation, Dr. Andrew Vallance-Owen commented, “This research will help to drive new gynecological practice to significantly improve patient safety and will help thousands of women to have as safe a birth as possible.”

Errant Cells

In endometriosis, cells resembling those found in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) grow on organs located outside of the womb. The most common locations of these errant cells are on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissues that hold the uterus in place. Sometimes endometriosis affects other organs in the vicinity of the pelvis, for instance on the bladder or bowel. In some rare cases, endometriosis is found on organs outside of the pelvis.

The Bupa Foundation offers funds to medical researchers who are involved in making discoveries on how to relieve symptoms, find cures, and learn how to prevent illness and disease. The foundation is an independent charity. Since its founding thirty years ago, the Bupa Foundation has awarded more than £23 million in grant money. Most of the grant money goes to medical fact finding teams in National Health Service (NHS) hospitals.

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