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WIRF is one of Australia's leading organisations that is dedicated to improving the health of women and infants.

Initiative to reduce WA's preterm birth rate

12Nov2014

A new public health initiative has been launched in an effort to reduce the rate of premature births in the State by 15% over t...

The Women and Infants Research Foundation (WIRF), in collaboration with the Women and Newborn Health Service (WNHS), The Department of Health Western Australia (DOH) and The University of Western Australia (UWA), will launch a public health initiative on 17th November in an effort to reduce the rate of premature births in the State by 15% over the next two years.  The day will coincide with World Prematurity Day.

The Western Australian Preterm Birth Prevention (PTBP) Initiative will include the release of new evidence-based clinical guidelines for WA medical practitioners on interventions to prevent preterm birth. The guidelines will be recommended for application into all WA clinical practices involved in obstetric care and include;

  • Prescription of natural vaginal progesterone in certain women with a past history of preterm birth
  • Routine measurement of the length of the cervix at the standard mid-pregnancy ultrasound examination and prescription of natural progesterone if the cervix is shortened
  • Not delivering babies until 38 weeks gestation or later unless there are medical or obstetric reasons necessitating an early birth;
  • Cessation of smoking or exposure to cigarette smoke for pregnant women;
  • Use of fertility treatments with appropriate caution; and
  • Pre-conception care and planning a pregnancy. 

 Other health optimising strategies will also be encouraged such as the normalising of body weight, avoidance of alcohol consumption and recreational substance abuse, the taking of supplementary folate daily for at least three months before conception, the stabilisation of autoimmune conditions and the control of blood glucose levels or blood pressure in women with diabetes or hypertension respectively.

The PTBP Initiative will also include the opening of a pilot specialist Preterm Birth Prevention Clinic based at King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women (KEMH). The Clinic will be a specialist referral centre for women classified by their regular healthcare practitioner as having an increased risk of delivering prematurely. 

A health promotion campaign and outreach program aimed at raising awareness amongst the general public and those most at risk of having a preterm birth will also be launched in the coming year as a part of the Initiative. 
 
The PTBP Initiative has received endorsement from Australian Medical Association President Dr Michael Gannon who is a member of the Initiative Steering Committee along with other leading members of the WA medical, obstetric and midwifery communities. 

Chair of the PTBP Initiative Steering Committee and WIRF’s Executive Director, Professor John Newnham, said, “Preterm birth is the single largest cause of death and disability in children up to five years of age in the developed world. Until recently, preterm birth has been considered to be an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of many human pregnancies, but times have changed. Several decades of research have now left us with the knowledge and skill base that if applied appropriately will safely reduce the rate of preterm birth”.

“Our aim is to harness the entire Western Australian obstetric and midwifery workforce, together with the 34,000 women who give birth each year in our state, to reduce the rate of this major complication of pregnancy. Safely reducing the number of babies born preterm will improve the lives of countless future Western Australians and their families”, said Professor Newnham.

Further information about the Initiative is available at www.thewholeninemonths.com.au

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Women and Infants Research Foundation
Carson House, King Edward Memorial Hospital
374 Bagot Road, Subiaco, WA 6008

Telephone: 08 6458 1437
Fax: 08 6458 1642
Email: info@wirf.com.au

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