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First-time moms participate in national study that aims to prevent complications

SALT LAKE CITY — Sarah Reeder found out through her first ultrasound that she had lost not one, but her first two babies, as the twins hadn't developed a heartbeat after eight weeks in gestation.

She was nervous about getting pregnant again, but she's now just 13 weeks away from delivering a healthy baby girl.

This time around, however, she's had extra help along the way, with ultrasounds and doctor visits every six weeks, as she's participating in a new national study designed to improve the health of future new moms and babies.

"Most pregnancies are happy events and usually end with a healthy baby and a healthy mom, but sometimes — if you ask me it's all too often — pregnancies have medical problems," Dr. Bob Silver, professor and chief of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine said Thursday during an event at the March of Dimes headquarters announcing the study.

A large portion of preterm birth and low birth weight babies, which occur in 11 percent of births nationwide, Silver said, could likely be prevented with further research. Preeclampsia is also among the complications that researchers aim to monitor.

"We have several strategies that help women with prior pregnancy complications to help them avoid a recurrent problem. However, we don't currently understand how to identify women at risk during their first pregnancy," he said. "We really want to learn more about first-time moms so that someday we can prevent the initial pregnancy complication."

Five hospitals in Utah are responsible for enrolling 2,000 first-time moms-to-be into the national Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcome Study Monitoring Mothers-to-be, which is funded by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Nationally, 10,000 women will be enrolled in the study.

"It is great to know that I am doing something for future generations," Reeder said, adding that by participating in the study, she's hopeful her own daughter won't have to have the experience she did conceiving for the first time.

University Hospital, McKay-Dee Hospital Center, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, LDS Hospital and Intermountain Medical Center are currently participating in the study and collectively, they are one of eight locations in the country enrolling women for the first-time mom research.

To qualify, participants must be 18 or older, less than 14 weeks pregnant, have had no prior pregnancies lasting 20 weeks or longer and intend to deliver at a participating hospital. Voluntary participation includes three ultrasound exams with DVD copies, a collection of specimens and answering some questions. Compensation will also be provided.

For more information about the study, visit