DETROIT (WWJ) – The National Institutes of Health, Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University have published of a major new study that describes a safe way to prevent as many as 45,000 premature births per year in the U.S.

WWJ’s Pat Sweeting reports the international study is an expansion on an earlier research project that suggested pregnant women with a shorter cervix can reduce their risk for delivering prematurely with daily doses of vaginal progesterone.

The study found when progesterone was administered on a daily basis, risk for premature delivery dropped by close to 45 percent.

Dr. Roberto Romero, Chief of perinatology research for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said the results are astounding.

“The results are extraordinary because they confirm that we can prevent pre-term births, early and late pre-term births, substantially by 44 percent, and that we can reduce neonatal morbidity, which is another word for complications,” said Romero.

Romero said more research is needed for at-risk women who are pregnant with twins, adding that the treatment is only suggested for women who are determined to have a shortened cervix.

“What we belive is happening is that women develop a deficiency in progesterone and this deficiency has a local effect on the cervix, making it short. And if we give progesterone vaginally in close proximity to the cervix, that medication, that hormone can reverse the process,” said Romero.

Dr. Valerie Parisi, Dean of the WSU School of Medicine, said pre-term births continue to plague the world.

“The March of Dimes graded the United States with a ‘D.’ Nobody, not academic people, like to get a ‘D’ in anything. And it’s a ‘D’ on the 2010 report card on per-term births,” said Parisi.

Women defined as at-risk for pre-term births are advised to have an ultrasound cervical measurement at the 19-24 week stage of gestation.

Get more information from the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology at


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