March of Dimes Campaign To End Premature Birth

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March of Dimes

Zika and Pre-Term Birth — What You Should Know

Most people have seen the heart-wrenching images of babies born with small, underdeveloped heads and brains after their mothers were infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy. But scientists are just starting to understand that these obvious birth defects may be only the tip of the iceberg. Evidence is growing that Zika may be linked to preterm birth, stillbirth, and a range of long-term health effects.

After months of intense advocacy by the March of Dimes and our partners, the U.S. Congress finally passed legislation in September that will help us get more answers about Zika. Since March, the March of Dimes has led a coalition that has grown to over 80 organizations that has conducted over one hundred meetings on Capitol Hill, sent almost a dozen group letters to legislators, and engaged extensively with the media to raise awareness and educate policymakers. The new funding provided by Congress will allow critical research, vaccine development, mosquito control, and public education efforts to move forward.

For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is conducting a study that will enroll approximately 10,000 pregnant women to study their rates of miscarriage, preterm birth, microcephaly, and other complications after the Zika infection. The March of Dimes is in dialogue with NIH about these Zika studies and their implications for our own research at the Prematurity Research Centers. It’s possible that studies on Zika could yield important hints about other causes of preterm birth.

The March of Dimes will remain deeply engaged on Zika advocacy, research and education until this terrible virus is brought under control. No pregnant woman should have to worry that a single mosquito bite could change her baby’s life forever. Preventing birth defects caused by Zika is just one more way the March of Dimes is working to give every baby a fighting chance.

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