A new study suggests that expecting mothers who were obese prior to their pregnancy face an increased risk of delivering a premature baby. The study, all set to appear in the July issue of Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology is part of a major research effort by the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University School of Medicine. The research center established in 2011 is a collaborated effort between March of Dimes and Stanford University who've dedicated themselves to identify the causes of premature birth. According to their website, with more than 500,000 premature births in the U.S. alone, and more than 15 million worldwide, the problem of preterm birth is far more widespread than people realize. (Read more: Healthy diet helps limit excess weight gain in pregnancy)The study examined nearly 1 million births in California between January 2007 and December 2009. It concluded that women who are obese before pregnancy may have premature births, those that happen before 28 weeks, or approximately six months. The study found no link between maternal obesity and premature births that happen between 28 and 37 weeks of the normal 40-week gestation period. It also established that the obesity-prematurity link was stronger for first-time mothers than for women having their second or later child.This disparity suggests that premature birth may have different causes at different stages of pregnancy. "Until now, people have been thinking about preterm birth as one condition, simply by defining it as any birth that happens at least three weeks early. But it is not as simple as that. Preterm birth is not one construct; gestational age matters" said Gary Shaw, professor of paediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine in the US.With inputs from IANS
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