Friends of NICHD Coalition: Monumental Advances in Women's Health

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health supports and conducts research related to the health and development of women, children, and families. The majority of the Nation's women's reproductive health-related research is conducted at the NICHD, and the Institute is making critical contributions to women's health research.

NICHD has overseen tremendous advancements for women including improving pregnancy and childbirth outcomes, and identifying cures for diseases and conditions affecting women of all ages and at all stages in life. NICHD research advancements include:

Improved prenatal diagnosis. NICHD studies demonstrated the safety and accuracy of amniocentesis for prenatal diagnosis, allowing women and their physicians to make informed decisions about their pregnancy using these techniques.

Improved diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy and choriocarcinoma. NICHD research led to faster diagnosis and monitoring of treatment for choriocarcinoma, a malignant tumor of placenta tissue.

Improved pregnancy tests. Today's simple and quick home and office pregnancy tests are the result of NICHD research.

Reduced perinatal HIV transmission. The NICHD has worked with other agencies to reduce the transmission of HIV from infected mother to fetus and infant from 25 percent to less than 2 percent.

Ongoing Research

The Pregnancy and Perinatalogy Branch of the NICHD conducts research that holds great promise to improve maternal and fetal health and safety. With the support of Congress, NICHD is:

Reducing high risk pregnancies. NICHD's Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit Network, working at 14 sites across the US, will help reduce the risks of cerebral palsy, caesarean deliveries, and gestational diabetes. Last year, this Network identified for the first time a treatment for recurrent pre-term birth, which has changed obstetrical practice.

Helping postpartum mothers and babies. The consequences of severe untreated postpartum depression and psychosis can be devastating to mothers, babies, families and communities. NICHD research is working to address pregnancy onset depression, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.

Reducing the prevalence of premature births. NICHD is helping our Nation understand how adverse conditions and health disparities increase the risks of premature birth in high-risk racial groups.

Effects of environment on health. The National Children's Study (NCS), in which NICHD is participating, will measure the effect of maternal stress exposure on fetuses.

More Work to Be Done

The NICHD has a long history of making critical advancements in women's health research, yet it has been under funded. With additional funding, the Institute could work to reduce the rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States, conduct more research on pregnancy-related issues (such as the impact of chronic conditions during pregnancy, postpartum conditions, racial and ethnic disparities in maternal mortality and morbidity), and explore drug safety with respect to pregnancy.