According to a groundbreaking clinical study of a new method for preventing premature birth in millions of women each year, the rate of early preterm delivery in women can be reduced by 45 percent.
This can be achieved by treating pregnant women at risk with a low-cost gel of natural progesterone during the midtrimester of pregnancy until term.
The study is entitled Vaginal progesterone reduces the rate of preterm birth in women with a sonographic short cervix: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
"The study published today offers hope to women, families and children," said Roberto Romero, Chief of the Perinatology Research Branch of the NIH.
"Worldwide, more than 12 million premature babies - 500,000 of them in this country - are born each year, and the results are often tragic. Our clinical study clearly 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."
Romero added that, once a high-risk mother for preterm delivery has been identified, she can be offered treatment with progesterone. Of major interest is that progesterone reduced the risk of preterm delivery not only at 33 weeks, but also at 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 study is detailed in the medical journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology.