SAN FRANCISCO, CA (Feb. 8, 2007) -- Researchers at the 27th Annual Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) meeting announced today that high-dose progesterone treatment helped at-risk pregnant women avoid premature delivery. A preterm birth can have serious consequences to the baby, including cerebral palsy, mental retardation, chronic lung disease, blindness and hearing loss.
In this study, 45 hospitalized women who already had experienced premature labor (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) were randomly divided into a treatment group and an observation group. The 23 members of the treatment group received twice-weekly 341-mg doses of progesterone until week 36. The progesterone injections appeared to prevent continued shortening of the cervix, a factor in premature labor.
"Our purpose was to determine if a higher dose of alpha hydroxy-progesterone caproate (17P), commonly used now to prevent preterm birth among women with that history, can affect cervical changes and thus increase preventive effectiveness in women during their first pregnancy." said Fabio Facchinetti, M.D., of the Universita di Modena e Reggio Emilia (Modena, Italy,) the lead study author and SMFM member. "And, our finding was that 22 percent of the women in the high-dose treatment group had a preterm delivery, compared to 54 percent of those in the observation group. We believe this was the result of reduced cervical shortening and inhibited local inflammation." Dr. Facchinetti said that in an unrelated study, similar 17P treatment reduced the risk of preterm delivery by 85 percent.
"Dr. Facchinetti's research is critical to identifying another effective tool for helping pregnancies go as close to full-term as possible," said Diane Ashton, M.D., MPH, deputy medical director of the March of Dimes. "It appears that this comparatively simple treatment can help prevent premature birth, which can have truly devastating effects on a baby."