A team of clinical researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received $14 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to conduct two studies aimed at improving pregnancy outcomes in the world’s poorest countries. An interdisciplinary team at the UNC School of Medicine and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health will lead the studies, both of which will explore the role of technology in predicting and addressing key risk factors associated with pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

Each year some 300,000 women and 3 million babies worldwide die during childbirth or shortly thereafter, according to the World Health Organization. Environmental and structural factors, underlying infectious disease burden, nutritional factors, and underperforming health systems are just some of the major reasons for this.

“In many parts of the world, the days surrounding childbirth are the riskiest period a mother and her newborn will ever face,” said Jeffrey Stringer, MD, professor of obstetrics & gynecology at the UNC School of Medicine and associate director of research at the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases (IGHID). “These studies will develop resource-appropriate technologies to make that time much safer.”

The Limiting Adverse Birth Outcomes in Resource-Limited Settings (LABOR) study will focus on the period of pregnancy between the onset of labor through delivery. It will evaluate 15,000 women at high-volume clinical sites in three developing countries, including the IGHID flagship partnership in Zambia. The team will provide wearable physiologic sensors to monitor laboring mothers and their fetuses and carefully document their clinical course and birth outcomes.

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Originally published May 2, 2019.