Progesterone treatments may significantly reduce preterm births
Every mother-to-be wants to have a normal pregnancy and a healthy, full term baby. But preterm birth – delivery at less than 37 weeks – is on the rise all over the world. In the U.S. one in eight babies is born prematurely. This increase is linked to rising rates of diabetes and obesity, stress, multiple births and other complications that require early delivery, often by Caesarian section.
A new study on progesterone treatment might just change those statistics for certain women. When given vaginally, progesterone reduced preterm birth by 42% in women at risk of premature delivery due to a short cervix.
What is Progesterone, and does it help preterm labor?
Progesterone is a naturally occurring female hormone and it is essential for pregnancy – it prepares the uterus for pregnancy and helps maintain a supportive environment for the fertilized egg. Progesterone levels begin to increase at conception and continue to do so throughout pregnancy. When the levels drop, labor will soon follow. The cervix, which is the lower portion of the uterus, shortens when the body prepares for birth. If progesterone levels begin to decrease before you reach that magic 40 weeks, the body will still react – the cervix shortens and there is a greater risk for preterm labor.
Dr. Hessel and her staff have the knowledge and equipment to determine if you have a short cervix and if you are at risk for a preterm delivery. It is a simple test – an ultrasound given between 19 – 24 weeks to measure the length of the cervix – and a powerful predictor of preterm birth.
If an ultrasound does show a shortened cervix, your doctor will take this into consideration, watch you closely and perhaps recommend a 90 milligram a day dose of vaginal progesterone starting around 20 weeks. Vaginal progesterone is currently available in several forms – capsules, gels, and suppositories.
“Vaginal progesterone in women with a short cervix reduced both early and later preterm birth,” says Robert Romero MD, researcher and chief of the perinatal research branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The treatment also reduced the rate of breathing problems by 52% and the need for mechanical ventilation by 34% (both seen more often in premature babies), it also reduced the need for babies to be placed in neonatal intensive care.
These treatments also proved beneficial to women with previous preterm birth and short cervix experiences , and it can be used with both single and multiple (twin) gestations.
A reduction in preterm births could make all the difference in the world. With a simple test, millions of lives and millions of dollars could be saved. Knowledge is power – so come to your next appointment prepared with questions and Dr. Hessel and her staff will be ready to help make this the happiest and healthiest time of your life.