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National Children's Study – Would You Donate Your Placenta and the Next 21 Years to Science?

969787_36225083One professor told the New York Times that it compares it to a trip to the moon.  The National Children’s Study is a 21-year, $6.7 billion project that aims to answer some pretty big questions about children’s health, starting before they are even born.

But it’s having a little trouble even getting off the ground.

In the next five years, researchers need to recruit 100,000 women — about 250 a year in each of 105 communities.  But though they’ve already recruited several hundred women, they figure they need to knock on about 40 doors (instead of the anticipated 14) to find one pregnant woman who wants to participate.

Let’s look at the pros.

You and your child get to be a part of history.  Consider the Nurses’ Health Study, which was started in 1976 and has provide a treasure trove of information about women’s health.  If this study goes as planned, the next generation of parents will have the answers to so many questions that we ask today.

But then there are the cons.

Scientists will ask pregnant participants for samples of their blood, their vaginal fluids, their toenail clippings, and will claim their placenta upon delivery.  And for 21 years, they’ll keep asking for more — dust samples from your home, bed, and carpet, more bodily fluids, the names and addresses of friends and relatives in case you move away and forget to notify them.

The commitment has more women than expected balking at the notion.  That combined with funding and content issues, means the National Children’s Study might need to be scaled back or changed to be completed.

Despite the inconvenience, I would have loved to be a part of this study.  (Note to researchers:  I’m not nor do I intend to become pregnant, so save your door-knocking for another neighborhood.)  But I can understand why someone would look at 21 years of researchers asking really personal questions with some hesitation.

Would you consider being part of the study?

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