A breakthrough new method - using progesterone gel - for preventing premature birth in women with a short cervix can reduce preterm delivery by 45 percent. Results of the three-year study were published in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Worldwide, more than 12 million premature babies are born each year, and the results are often tragic. The new study shows that it is possible to identify women at risk and reduce the rate of preterm delivery by nearly half, simply by treating women who have a short cervix with a natural hormone - progesterone.
Dr. Robert Romero, principal investigator of the study, explained that numerous studies over the past decade have shown that ultrasound of the uterine cervix can identify pregnant women who are at high risk for preterm delivery. The ultrasound examination can be performed between the 19th and 24th weeks of pregnancy. Pregnant women with a short cervix (one that is less than 20mm) are at very high risk for preterm delivery.
Interestingly, progesterone reduced the risk of preterm delivery not only at less-than-33 weeks, but also at less-than-28 weeks (one of the secondary endpoints of the study). It also reduced the rate of respiratory distress syndrome, the most common complication of premature babies.
"The main implication for clinical practice is that universal screening of women with ultrasound examination in the midtrimester to identify patients at risk [based on a short cervix] can now be coupled with an intervention - the administration of vaginal progesterone gel - to reduce the frequency of preterm birth and improve neonatal outcome. This can be accomplished conveniently," said Romero.
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Source: Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research