To respond to the need for well-designed clinical trials in maternal-fetal medicine, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) established the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units (MFMU) Network in 1986. At that time, seven clinical centers and a data coordinating center were selected to participate collaboratively in common protocols to conduct clinical trials, the first of which involved post-term complications, preterm labor, and preeclampsia prevention. Since the inception of the Network, a total of 54 studies (31 randomized trials, 23 observational studies) have been completed or are in process, not including multiple ancillary studies and secondary analyses. As of January 2018, Network investigators have made approximately 530 presentations and published over 325 peer-reviewed manuscripts (over 100 since 2012). The continued need for the Network is clear due to the rapid changes in management in the highly technical environment of maternal-fetal medicine and the large sample sizes required for adequate statistical power to detect clinically important differences. Operating under cooperative agreements, the current Network is comprised of twelve university-based clinical centers and a data coordinating center.
The major aims of the MFMU Network are to:
- Reduce the rates of preterm birth, fetal growth abnormalities, newborn morbidity, and maternal complications of pregnancy
- Evaluate maternal and fetal interventions for efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness
In order to achieve these aims, the Network incorporates translational research, genetic analysis, and the evaluation of new technologies in the promotion of maternal-child health/prevention of disease.