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 June 14, 2003
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Treatment Cuts Preterm Births
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(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study shows women at risk of delivering their babies too soon may significantly reduce that risk if they receive regular injections of a form of progesterone while pregnant.

Preterm birth is a common complication of pregnancy in the United States, and the biggest cause of infant mortality throughout the developed world. Women who have one preterm birth are at significantly higher risk for additional preterm births. Small studies have suggested treatment with hydroxyprogesterone caproate, or 17P, might reduce the risk, presumably because of the hormone's ability to relax the smooth muscle wall of the uterus and block other actions in the uterus that make it contract. Researchers across the country set out to determine if the treatment would work in a larger study conducted at 13 medical centers.

The study involved 463 women who had experienced a previous preterm birth. About two-thirds of the group were treated with weekly injections of 17P, while the rest received placebo injections. Results showed the active treatment cut the number of preterm births by about one-third. Only 36 percent of the women on the treatment delivered their babies before 37 weeks of gestation, compared to nearly 55 percent of women who received placebo injections. Similar benefits for 17P were seen when researchers looked at women delivering even earlier in their pregnancies.

Babies born to mothers who received the injections also suffered significantly fewer complications of birth, including breathing difficulties and inflammation of the colon.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: http://www.ivanhoe.com/newsalert/.

SOURCE: New England Journal of Medicine, 2003;348:2379-2385

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