Thursday, 17 November 2016
Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born prematurely. Complications of preterm birth are responsible for over a third of the world’s annual 3.1 million neonatal deaths and can have serious long-term consequences for those who survive1 .
Preterm birth occurs for a wide variety of reasons. Multiple pregnancies are the biggest risk factor2, while other common causes include infections and chronic diseases such as diabetes3. Preeclampsia, a condition characterised by high blood pressure, affects at least 5% of all pregnancies and is estimated to be responsible for 20% of all preterm births4.
Ferring has been helping mums and babies for over 50 years by developing medicines that address their needs.
Today, our scientists are working hard to better understand the causes of preterm birth and to translate their research into solutions that benefit mums and babies. Our teams around the world are also working to raise awareness of what can be done to prevent preterm birth.
On World Prematurity Day, we hear from four Ferring employees committed to ending preterm birth and find out what motivates them to give babies the best possible start in life.
Associate Director, Program Management, Ferring Research Institute, US
Global Strategic Brand Leader, Obstetrics, Ferring International Centre, Switzerland
General Manager, Ferring Philippines
Principle Scientist, Ferring International PharmaScience Center, Denmark
"I’d heard of preeclampsia before joining Ferring, but had never met anyone who had personally experienced it. That all changed when I began leading a preeclampsia research project and was invited to take part in the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. One lady’s story particularly moved me, as she gave birth around the same time that I did and our sons share the same name. She was very sick from preeclampsia and her son was born prematurely. In addition to how frightening it must have been, her story also brings home just how challenging it is for the whole family to simply keep going – from taking care of other children, to juggling work and extended hospital stays. Hearing these stories is a constant reminder to me and my team as to why we got into science and drug discovery in the first place. It’s incredibly inspiring to know that our research efforts in the area of preeclampsia could have a significant impact on the health of both mother and baby . I really can’t think of a better motivation – and I’m lucky to be surrounded by such a committed team who feel the same."
"Our eldest son was born one month early and weighed 1.5kg. Our youngest son was born two and a half months early, at just 29 weeks and weighing only 1kg. He had breathing difficulties and over the first few weeks lost weight. We were in emergency mode for the entire time he spent in hospital, and my wife was by his side day and night. After one month in the incubator, he finally started putting on weight, and after two months we were able to take him home. Today, both boys are healthy and happy. The youngest is completely fearless – a real fighter! We were lucky, but we remember the families in the hospital who weren’t so lucky. My personal experience is a clear motivation to help Ferring end preterm birth. Moving forward, I’d like to see the focus of preterm birth change from treatment to prevention, as keeping the baby in the womb for one more week or even one more day can make all the difference."
"Preterm birth and maternal and infant mortality are big issues here in the Philippines. There are a number of reasons for this, mostly linked to a lack of awareness and a lack of resources. Even if some medical care is free, many women from rural areas can’t afford transportation costs to get to the clinic for prenatal check-ups. We also have high teenage pregnancy rates, and many teenagers try to hide their pregnancies from their parents and so don’t get the care they need during their pregnancies. I have also experienced first-hand the impact of maternal and infant mortality. A baby was offered to me for adoption when the mother was 6-months pregnant. I accepted the offer and extended care to the mother. After a month, I got a call saying that the baby was delivered prematurely but unfortunately did not survive. I might not have been carrying the baby, but I felt that loss very personally. I also have a cousin who died of post-partum haemorrhage. These stories – and many more – drive my daily work and my desire to make a difference for mothers and babies."
"During my PhD studies I regularly visited intensive care units and saw many premature babies who weighed less than 500g. They were so tiny and fragile, almost translucent. I still remember those babies today, and they continue to inspire my work. During my time at Ferring, I’ve been involved in the development of a number of medicines, including some in the area of preterm birth. Right now there’s significant interest in identifying biomarkers that could predict preterm labour. To give an example, for many years, scientists and doctors thought that the womb was a completely sterile environment. That understanding is now changing, and we are seeing that the womb, amniotic fluid and placenta are populated with healthful or harmful microbes. Just like the microbiome in the gut, scientists are now exploring the microbiome of the womb to see how its composition could affect conditions such as implantation failure or preterm birth. It’s an exciting time to be a scientist in this area, and I have a lot of hope for the future."
Find out more facts about preterm birth here.
 Born Too Soon: The global epidemiology of 15 million preterm births: Reprod Health. 2013; 10(Suppl 1): S2. Published online 2013 Nov 15. doi: 10.1186/1742-4755-10-S1-S2
 Epidemiology and causes of preterm birth. Goldenberg RL, et al. Lancet 2008;371:75–84. (PubMed)
 Maternal risk factors for preterm birth: a country-based population analysis. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol Di Renzo GC, Giardina I, Rosati A, et al. 2011;159:342–346.
 Preeclampsia Foundation. FAQs.
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