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Hormone gel lowers preterm births
Thu, 07 Apr 2011 07:05:45 GMT
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Safe and relatively inexpensive progesterone hormone gel may significantly reduce the risk of early preterm birth in some high-risk pregnant women.

Researchers at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that administering vaginal progesterone for women with a short cervix - a risk factor for premature delivery - decreases the rate of delivering before 33 weeks by 45 percent.

Babies born too early are at risk for many health problems, including breathing difficulty, blindness, deafness, and learning disabilities. However, the new finding may bring a new hope for preventing premature birth in millions of women each year.

The study that was conducted at 44 medical centers in 10 countries assigned 458 women with a sonographic diagnosis of short cervix to receive daily applications of either a progesterone gel or a placebo gel between the 19th and 23rd weeks of pregnancy.

The findings showed that only 8.9 percent of women who got the progesterone treatment delivered early while the rate was 16.1 percent in the placebo group, scientists wrote in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

"We tested this in women of all ethnic groups, and it was effective," said Roberto Romero, the lead author from NIH.

In addition, fewer babies (3 percent) born to mothers given progesterone had respiratory distress syndrome, a lung disorder common to premature infants in comparison to 7.6 percent in children of mothers in the placebo group.

This finding suggests that progesterone treatment besides preventing premature birth, might help the babies too.

"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.

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