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 61 studies (33 randomized trials, 28 observational studies) have been completed or are in process, not including multiple ancillary studies and secondary analyses. As of April 2023, Network investigators have made over 644 presentations and published approximately 400 peer-reviewed manuscripts (over 100 since 2016). 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.