Other Focus Areas

Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes Headline

Pregnancy and childbirth are risky times for both mothers and babies, and the health of mother and baby are inextricably linked. Conditions that develop during pregnancy can be tied to complications such as pre-term birth and intrauterine growth restriction. The tens of millions of babies born too soon or too small can suffer lifelong consequences for their cognitive and physical development.

Importance of Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes

Every year, more than 500,000 women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and many more are permanently disabled. Even when infants survive, their chance for a healthy and productive life is much diminished by the death or disability of the mother. Additionally, nearly 4 million babies die each year before they are a month old, from birth asphyxia or conditions such as prematurity and serious infections, and more than 3 million are stillborn. Above and beyond these mortality figures, the morbidity connected to unhealthy pregnancy and birth outcomes prevents many people from fulfilling their potential.

To make the necessary progress, we must address underlying risks such as intrauterine growth restriction, pre-eclampsia, prematurity, stunting, and wasting. These biological vulnerabilities often begin with the mother, compound under the physical stress of pregnancy, and are tragically transferred to her newborn, perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of vulnerability. We believe it’s possible to interrupt this cycle and pave the way for a healthy future by addressing the risk factors for both mom and baby.

How we are Addressing Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes

Pregnancy Risk Stratification:

We aim to build models that help us detect, accurately and as early as possible, which pregnant women are at risk of pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, and post-partum hemorrhage. The goal is to be able to help clinicians identify women who need additional intervention. We are currently modelling pre-eclampsia, looking especially at blood pressure over time. Eventually, we hope to look at a wide range of data, including clinical, population, omics, and ultrasound, to stratify for more conditions sooner and more accurately.


Gestational Age Estimation:

We have done work on estimating gestational age of fetuses during pregnancy, but our current focus is estimating the gestational age of newborns. Our objective is to determine how many children are born pre-term. Right now, our proxy is usually the size of the child, but it’s very difficult to distinguish between babies who are pre-term and babies who are full-term but small for their gestational age. Many of our partners have conducted studies looking at estimates for individual babies, to help health systems intervene more quickly to help the children. We are looking at similar data sets, including anthropometry, Ballard scores, metabolic profiles, and lens vascularity, to arrive at a good estimate at the population level of how many children are born pre-term. With this estimate, we will have a foundation for evaluating the effectiveness of public health interventions to prevent and treat the complications of pre-maturity.