A new study spearheaded by the University of Leicester in partnership with the NHS is investigating premature births occurring between 32-36 weeks.
The study, in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, will shed new light on the reasons for premature births amongst this particular- and relatively less intensively studied - group.
The researchers are appealing for mums from all nationalities and backgrounds who have babies born between 32 and 36 weeks to take part in the study.
The Late And Moderate preterm Birth Study, or LAMBS, is a project funded by the National Institute for Health Research (part of the NHS).
'We know very little about why some babies are born just a few weeks early and what happens to them as they grow up. These babies have been largely ignored until recently because researchers have concentrated on extremely premature babies who are the very tiniest babies, born before 32 weeks.' says Dr Elaine Boyle, Consultant Neonatologist and Senior Lecturer in Neonatal Medicine at the University of Leicester.
There are far more moderate or late preterm babies than there are extremely preterm babies. In Leicester and Nottingham alone, around 1000 babies every year are born between 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.
Dr Boyle added: 'This study will help us to understand why these babies are born early and learn more about preventing premature birth. We want to know whether these babies are more likely to have special difficulties compared to babies that are born at the usual time.
'It is really important that women of all nationalities and from all walks of life and their babies are involved in this research. We hope that mothers of all babies that are born between 32 and 36 weeks will want to take part, as well as a large number of mothers of babies born at 37 weeks or more. This is one of the few studies of its kind in the world and we would like it to be a great success.'
The LAMBS study will be starting in and around Leicester and Nottingham in September 2009 and will run for one year. Organisations involved in the study include University Hospitals of Leicester and Nottingham University Hospitals.