A study claims that the use of progesterone gel can reduce the risk of delivering before the 33rd week of pregnancy by half. Known by the brand name Prochieve, this progesterone gel gives hope to many women with a short cervix.
Progesterone Reduces the Risk of Delivery before 33rd Week of Pregnancy by HalfBabies born preterm always run the risk of an early death or face a multitude of long term health and psychological problems. They may suffer from cerebral palsy, breathing difficulties, blindness, and deafness and learning difficulties. In the U.S. alone, about 12.8 percent of the babies born in 2008 were preterm.
The study was conducted on 458 women with a short cervix from 44 medical centers around the world. These women were given the progesterone gel or a placebo to be used between the 19th and 23rd week of pregnancy. It was found that only 8.9% of the women who got the gel delivered before the 33rd week of pregnancy as compared to 16.1% of the women who got the placebo.
A Short Cervix is Associated with Increased Risk of Preterm LaborA normal pregnancy lasts from 38 to 40 weeks and gives the baby optimal chance to develop in a healthy manner. Any pregnancy that lasts between 20 and 37 weeks is said to be preterm and the babies born thus, face many health issues after birth. The chances of preterm labor increase in women who have had similar deliveries in the past. The risk increases if the women are bearing multiple babies at the same time, e.g. twins. Preterm labor can also occur if the women have abnormalities of the birth track, like a short cervix.
Cervix is the part of the birth canal which opens and shortens during labor. It has been known for a long time that a short cervix is associated with increased chances of a preterm labor.
Researchers taking part in the above study have hypothesized that the women with a short cervix may be lacking in progesterone and the latter’s supplementation during pregnancy in a gel form may be helpful in prolonging the pregnancy.
Apart from helping women with a short cervix, progesterone also helps in preventing preterm labor due to premature rupture of membranes. Progesterone supplementation protects the fetal membranes from weakening and prevents their premature rupture.
Progesterone has also been found to be useful in preventing fetal distress in preterm babies. Only 3% of babies born to the women taking part in the study, who received progesterone gel, had respiratory distress syndrome. 7.6% of babies born to women who had received a placebo developed respiratory problems after birth.
The makers of Prochieve plan to apply for U.S. approval later this year.