In the past several decades, we have witnessed astounding improvements in the health of infants and children as a result of successes in translating knowledge derived from laboratory and clinical research into effective therapies for the fetus and newborn. Improvements in survival and reduction in newborn suffering would not have been possible without direct evaluation of the safety and efficacy of these therapies in the pregnant woman and fetus. For example, work done with pregnant women and their fetuses has led directly to the current Rh screening programs and the use of Rhogam, and has resulted in a marked decrease in pregnancy wastage and newborn morbidity due to erythroblastosis.
The outcome of thousands of pregnancies has been improved as a result of the evaluation of fetal lung maturity by lecithin-sphingomyelin ratio (L/S ratio) and the administration of glucocorticosteroids to enhance lung maturity in infants at risk for hyaline membrane disease. Again, in these studies validation of normal developmental profiles and evaluation of safety and efficacy were required.
Our current success in monitoring pregnancy outcome is based on the safe evaluation of normal growth and our ability to detect adverse genetic and environmental influences in the developing fetus. We now can recognize fetal hypoxia during pregnancy and at delivery by knowledge of fetal heart rate profiles obtained by fetal research. Even the effects of noninvasive measures such as maternal bed rest and improved nutrition on fetal outcome in the pregnancy complicated by maternal hypertension must be assessed by continued fetal research.
- Copyright © 1984 by the American Academy of Pediatrics