Saturday, July 09, 2011

Abortion 'increases risk of premature birth'

This is an unusual study in that it DID control for social class. It also replicates many previous findings. As abortion fills me with horror, I am certainly inclined to accept its conclusions. Scientific honesty impels me to note the weaknesses of the study, however.

Failure to control for both smoking and IQ are large lacunae. Smokers are known to be more sexually promiscuous and greater risk takers generally. So were the smokers in the sample more likely to have abortions? Almost certainly. And smokers are also more likely to have lower birthweight babies. So it could be that we are simply seeing the effects of smoking here, not the effects of abortion.

Similarly, high IQ people are both healthier and most likely better at avoiding unwanted pregnancies. So we could be seeing an IQ effect here too

Abortion appears to increase the chance of giving birth prematurely in a subsequent wanted pregnancy by a third, according to a British study.

Having a surgical abortion could increase the risk of giving birth before 37 weeks by even more than that, found academics at Aberdeen University.

Prof Siladitya Bhattacharya, a gynaecologist, and a team made their conclusions after comparing the second pregnancies of 170,000 women who had previously had an abortion, to 458,000 undergoing their first pregnancies. They found those who had experienced abortions were 33 per cent more likely to subsequently deliver pre-term than those who had never had an abortion.

They were also 44 per cent more likel to give birth extremely prematurely – before 34 weeks.

The academics controlled for social factors like class – known to be have an effect on pre-term delivery – but were unable to take into account smoking because of a lack of information.

The study was presented on Monday at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Stockholm, Sweden.

Prof Bhattacharya’s wife, Dr Sohinee Bhattacharya, an epidemiologist, who gave the presentation, said the physical act of surgical abortions in particular could damage the cervix.

She explained: “When you do a dilatation of the cervix, quite heavy, thick instruments are used. “Especially in younger women, under 25, it is particularly shown to have an effect because the cervix is quite tight.”

Their study showed that women who underwent surgical abortion were 27 per cent more likely to give birth prematurely in their next pregnancy than those who'd had a medical abortion. The team has not yet analysed the overall increased risk of pre-term birth for each type of abortion, compared to women who have not had an abortion.

Prof Bhattacharya noted that women who had undergone an abortion were only as likely to deliver prematurely as those who had previously miscarried. But he said every effort was needed to understand all the factors that led to premature deliveries. “It is important because pre-term birth is a major cause of death - and short and long-term disability - in babies.

“It also causes the NHS millions in terms of neo-natal care and millions more in terms of support for those with continuing disabilities.”


Drug gives hope to women who suffer recurring miscarriages

This is very good news indeed if replicated

British scientists believe they have found a cheap, commonly used drug which can improve the chances of giving birth to a healthy baby among women who have recurrent miscarriages.

Prednisolone is a steroid which is frequently used to help control asthma symptoms. But now fertility experts at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust have discovered it could also work to significantly reduce the risk of miscarriage.

In a trial of 160 women, all of whom had suffered three or more consecutive miscarriages, they found that those given a daily dose of the drug were much more likely to go on to have a live baby. In the women given prednisolone, 60 per cent went on to give birth. But in those given a placebo, only 40 per cent did so.

Professor Siobhan Quenby, from the trust, described it as a “huge step forward”. She said: “I am delighted with the initial outcome of the trial. This is a huge step forward for people who have the heartbreak of unexplained miscarriages. "But we will need a much bigger trial if we are going to turn these findings into a cure.”

However, she added: "I am confident within as little as a few years we will be able to offer a new test and treatment for repeated miscarriages."

The findings were presented on Tuesday at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Stockholm.


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