A new study published in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology
found that administering progesterone reduced the rate of preterm birth
by 45% among women with a shortened cervix. A short cervix is known to
increase the risk for preterm birth. The cervix is the part of the uterus
that opens and shortens during labor.
The study also found that infants born to women who had received progesterone
were less likely to develop respiratory distress syndrome, a breathing
complication occurring commonly in preterm infants. Despite many efforts
to intervene, premature delivery has remained unchanged and is the leading
cause of health problems for infants, far greater than birth defects.
The study authors reasoned that based on recent success of administering
progesterone to women who have previously experienced preterm birth (before
34 weeks gestational age) that they could expand it’s utility by
identifying a predicable risk factor such as a short cervix, then intervene
early and hopefully prolong pregnancy. The women in the study underwent
routine ultrasound screening of cervical length early in their 2nd trimester.
The women with a short cervix were randomly assigned to receive either
a vaginal gel progesterone preparation or a placebo between the 19th and
23rd week of pregnancy. Progesterone treatment was associated with a lower rate of
preterm delivery (9% in the progesterone group versus 16% in the placebo group).
So now the question national leaders in Obstetrics must determine is which
pregnant women should be screened for a shortened cervix? We’ll
let you know as soon as these best practices are announced…