Preterm birth is still a significant problem in the United States each year leading to major causes leading to infant illness and death.
The causes of preterm birth are largely unknown, and of those known factors, many seem unpreventable.
There are biochemical, uterine anatomical, hormonal, genetic, infectious, causes just to name a few.
Ultimately when a baby is ‘ready’ to be born, based on the baby’s biological clock, then the baby triggers labor. If that process begins, even if the baby is premature by dates, medical intervention has limited ability to stop it.
Generally, if we can identify risk factors, it’s easier to progress to a solution. So newly investigators are following a line of research that look at the genetics of prematurity, and specifically the tips of the baby’s chromosomes called telomers.
After birth the ends or ‘caps’ on each of our chromosomes, containing our DNA, progressively weaken and shorten. The telomere weakening and shortening leads to us to suffer the consequences of aging, including organs failing, skin wrinkling, hair graying, and ultimately leads to our death.
Little was known about the condition of telomeres at birth and even during fetal life, and whether healthier telomeres can translate into less likelihood of premature birth.
How moms can help themselves prevent preterm birth is an active area of research. Having supplemented with vitamins E and C, which are specifically antioxidant vitamins, prior to conceiving, leads to better health and fewer preterm births! Now we have to look and see if that is because there is then positive benefit on the telomeres, or not related to that at all.
You should always consult your own health care providers regarding all vitamin and supplement intake, but this is proactive and exciting research that appears to have few risks and a lot of potential benefits!