LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Two Cedars-Sinai doctors have been awarded federal grants totaling $4 million to study how women and their children are affected by the environment they are in, the hospital announced today.

The first study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will attempt to explain why pregnancies resulting from fertility treatments have an increased risk of complications, including low birth weight, birth defects and infant mortality.

More than 10 percent of Americans seek fertility treatment and about 2 percent of babies are conceived using assisted reproductive technologies,  according to Cedars-Sinai researchers.

“We are trying to understand what is causing the increased risk of  problems for pregnancies achieved by in vitro fertilization,” said Dr.  Margareta Pisarska, the study's lead investigator.

“This study is so unique, and the first of its kind in humans, because  we will be able to look at the earliest point in human pregnancy, when the fertilized egg implants, to determine if the adverse outcomes are the result of  the genetic make-up of the parents that led to problems conceiving in the first  place, or whether it is the result of the infertility treatments themselves,” she said.

The study is expected to take five years to complete.

A second study, funded by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, will examine the effect a hospital's environment has on childbirth.

“Maternal morbidity and mortality continue to be a problem in California and nationally, and it is estimated that 40 percent of maternal deaths are preventable,” said Dr. Kimberly Gregory, who has served on numerous state and federal health policy committees.

When something goes wrong in childbirth, it goes wrong fast and requires a quick response, she said.

“There is a need to have the right clinical policies and procedures in place to handle a suddenly complicated pregnancy, and that is what this research will identify,” Gregory said.