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.