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Hormone treatment reduces risk of premature delivery

Giving pregnant women the hormone progesterone can reduce their risk of premature delivery by one-third, a study has found.

health and fitness Updated: Jun 26, 2003 13:36 IST

Giving pregnant women the hormone progesterone can reduce their risk of premature delivery by one-third, offering the first clear-cut way to head off this increasingly common and dangerous problem, a study has found.

Low birth weight and serious, sometimes deadly complications also occurred less often in babies whose mothers got the weekly injections, according to the study in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

"This is really the first innovation that's clearly been shown to prevent or reduce the incidence of premature delivery," said Dr Charles J Lockwood, Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine and former Chairman of obstetrical practices of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The study involved women at very high risk of premature delivery. The women previously had at least one baby very early - at about 31 weeks on average. Full term is considered 37 weeks to 40 weeks. Some of the women received progesterone; a comparison group got shots of an inert oil.

The progesterone proved so effective that the study was halted early because it would have been unethical to keep giving some women a placebo.

"This is a start at finally having some successful treatments to prevent the biggest problem we have in caring for pregnant women," said lead researcher Dr Paul J Meis, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. "We have tried so many treatments to prevent premature birth, and they have not been successful.

First Published: Jun 12, 2003 19:34 IST