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Preterm Labor: Simple Treatment Gives Babies More Womb-Time

Preterm births and treatment for early labor

Keeping babies in the womb

The U.S. is notoriously bad about preterm births (last year, for example, the March of Dimes gave us a “D” in preterm birth management). Babies need as much womb-time as they can get, and every day counts — but still, over 12 percent of babies are born before 37 weeks (the CDC’s goal was 7 percent last year).

But research seems to be gathering to help moms carry to term. According to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health, there may be a simple way for women at risk for delivering early to stave off labor until their baby is full term.

Here’s the relatively easy intervention that may help a huge number of babies:

The researchers tested a group of 465 moms-to-be who had “short cervix” lengths (putting them at higher risk for early delivery). Apparently if your cervix is under 15 mm long, you have a 50 percent chance of delivering before 33 weeks (I hadn’t heard this before!).

These moms were given a daily progesterone gel or a placebo gel to start mid-pregnancy. Of the ones who had the treatment, 8.9% delivered before 33 weeks, in comparison to 16.1% of those who got the placebo.

Those moms using the gel also had babies with fewer complications and higher birth weights.

We’re making a lot of advances in the realm of preterm birth in my opinion. We’re far from our goal (the incidence has stayed relatively constant for the last 3 years), but research about what causes preterm labor and these kinds of medical treatments for helping at-risk moms is certainly promising.

Image: flickr

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