BENDIGO mothers will be part of a world-first trial looking at ways to prevent preterm births.
Chief investigator and La Trobe University Professor of Midwifery Helen McLachlan secured $1.6 million from the Medical Research Fund to lead the trial.
The research will look at whether continuity of care from one midwife through pregnancy, birth, and after-birth will lead to lower rates of preterm births.
Bendigo Health will be one of three Victorian hospitals to take part in the research.
"The thing with preterm birth is that it is a key health indicator for children," Professor McLachlan said.
"If a baby is born early, there can be more complications that impact short and long term health - like impaired learning in childhood, vision and hearing problems, and development delays."
More than 27,000 babies are born prematurely in Australia each year. There are 15 million preterm births a year globally.
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Professor McLachlan said the world-first research would focus on women who needed additional social support.
"We know from earlier studies these trials have quite strong findings, but they have mostly been done on a very low risk population of women," Professor McLachlan said.
"But this is the first trial in the world to look at women who might benefit from additional social support.
"We're looking at women who may be teen mothers, those who are on low incomes, who have issues with housing, or who may be new to Australia."
More than 1800 women will be part of the study across the three Victorian hospitals. The trial will be conducted over a two-year period.
"We're also very interested in women's psychological wellbeing and whether that continuity of care will reduce stress," Professor McLachlan said.
"We know that stress is a big reason for preterm birth. For the first time, we are working with physiologists who will test cortisol levels in a small sample of women to really measure if we are reducing stress.
"We're really excited and looking forward to doing this trial."
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