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NIH progesterone study

Perinatal Center of Iowa and Mercy seek answers to reduce pre-term births

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

National Institutes of Health study recently found that the hormone progesterone reduced the rate of preterm birth before week 33 of pregnancy by 45 percent among one category of at-risk women. The results were recently published online in “Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology.” Joseph Hwang, M.D., led the study for the Perinatal Center of Iowa–the only study location in Iowa.

The women studied each had a short cervix, which is known to increase the risk for preterm birth. The study included 458 healthy pregnant women with cervixes between 10-20 millimeters long. Each woman was assigned to use a progesterone gel that was administered daily beginning about midway through her pregnancy or a fake gel.

Of the women who were treated with the progesterone, 8.9 percent delivered before 33 weeks compared to 16.1 percent of women who were assigned the fake gel. Even though the medical community classifies deliveries before 37 weeks as being premature, the 33-week cutoff was used because babies born before that are more likely to experience health problems than those who are officially premature, but born closer to the normal gestational time of 40 weeks.

“The findings of this study means once a woman is determined to have a shortened cervix, she could receive this progesterone gel and ultimately give her baby a healthier start at life,” says Joseph Hwang, M.D., perinatologist with the Perinatal Center of Iowa. 

According to the March of Dimes, one out of eight babies is born pre-term (considered before week 37 of pregnancy). Pre-term infants are at increased risk for death in the first year of life, breathing difficulties and life-long disabilities.

The manufacturer of the gel plans to submit a new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration for the preventive use of the gel, which they will name Prochieve.

Gregg Lagan
Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines 
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