Yakima women helping doctors find causes of preterm delivery

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- The number of women in Yakima County who go into premature labor is higher than the state average. Doctors don't know why.

Malik looks like any other playful one-and-a-half year old. You'd never know he was born at six weeks prematurely. His mother says it was difficult situation to handle.

"I would only be able to hold him while he would eat, which was like less than 15 minutes every three hours," said program participant Tiffany.

Tiffany is far from alone. Yakima County's rate of premature births is higher than the state average.

"The fact that nothing's really changed over 20 or 30 years that was part of the stimulus for initiating the GAPPS program," said Yakima Memorial's Obstetric Unit Director Dr. Rowles

The Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth is trying to find what causes early births. The Seattle-based program collects urine, blood and placenta samples from women worldwide. Dr. Rowles says poverty and stress are factors, but not causes.

"They deliver a tiny little baby. That's really the focus to try and find out on these people where there is no obvious cause," said Rowles.

Tiffany is pregnant again and hopes the GAPPS program can help her this time around.

"If they could find a difference between the two pregnancies and see if they can find something to change it," said Tiffany.

"It's a very important alliance. It's going to go on for many, many years and I tell patients who participate that they're not going to benefit from this study. It's going to be long after I'm done practicing that answers will be out there. There are answers to be found," said Rowles.

Answers to make sure babies get an easier start than Malik did.

GAPPS started in September of 2009 and Yakima was the first collection site. So far, 367 local women have participated.
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