The results of a new study indicate that the use of over-the-counter decongestants during pregnancy cuts the risk of premature births.
Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) epidemiologist Rohini Hernandez and colleagues conducted the study.
"The more we can learn about what could potentially cause preterm birth would help our understanding in how to stop it," Hernandez said.
The study found that women who took decongestants in their second or third trimesters had a roughly 58 percent less risk of preterm delivery compared to women who didn't use decongestants during their pregnancy.
(The finding was observed only for women without preeclampsia.)
"Medication use is a major concern for pregnant women and generally, when medications are found to have effects on the fetus, they're usually found to have adverse effects," Hernandez said.
"This was surprising in that a potentially beneficial effect was found," she added.
Yet Hernandez said more research is needed to see if there is an actual cause and effect relationship between decongestant use and preterm birth and if so, what element in the decongestant is producing this outcome.
The study is published online ahead of print in the journal Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology.