A new study published in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology has found that natural progesterone cream given to certain groups of pregnant women effectively reduced premature birth rates by 50 percent. Pregnant women with a condition known as short cervix are believed to be lacking in progesterone, an essential hormone necessary for the development of healthy babies. So by supplementing with progesterone gel, such women can help ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Many readers will recall the recent US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement that the agency was giving exclusive, monopoly approval to KV Pharmaceutical to produce progesterone cream — and that the price of the treatment for women was set to jump roughly 15,000 percent as a result. Thanks to new research, though, pregnant women will hopefully now have more progesterone options available to them, particularly natural and customized formulas designed specifically for them.
For the study, Dr. Sonia S. Hassan and her team from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) assigned 458 pregnant women to either receive a once-daily dose of vaginal progesterone, or a once-daily dose of a placebo gel, during their second and third trimesters. While 16 percent of those in the placebo group gave birth before the 33rd week of pregnancy, only 8.9 percent in the progesterone group gave birth early.
Besides reducing the overall rate of preterm births, the progesterone gel also demonstrably reduced the rate of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), a breathing disorder linked to early births. Not only did the women themselves experience less cases of RDS as a result of taking progesterone, but so did their children. Infants whose mothers did not receive progesterone during their pregnancies were nearly three times more likely to develop RDS than children from mothers who took the hormone.
“The study … offers hope to women, families and children,” said Dr. Roberto Romero, chief of the Perinatology Research Branch of NIH. “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.”