A popular hormone treatment given to pregnant women to stop them having their babies too early does not work and is a waste of time, a new study has found.
A study of 789 women in New Zealand, Australia and Canada found giving progesterone pessaries to women with a history of preterm births provided no advantages over the women who did not use them.
Lead researcher Professor Caroline Crowther from the University of Auckland’s Liggins Institute said there had previously been mixed studies about whether the use of vaginal progesterone reduced preterm births. Because there was no definitive answer, treatments given to women with a history of having premature babies varied widely among hospitals and countries, she said.
Progesterone pessaries can be prescribed to woman who have given birth before 37 weeks as there has been evidence that it could delay birth and therefore the prevent the risks associated with a premature baby, such as breathing problems or other serious health issues.
As part of the study, half the women being treated at 39 maternity hospitals across the three countries were given the progesterone treatment from 14 weeks and the other half were given a placebo.
The health of the mothers and babies was then assessed, said Crowther, to be much the same among those who had had progesterone and those who had not, proving taking progesterone was a waste of time.
“We now have a clear answer we can believe: vaginal progesterone does not improve the baby’s health when given to women who have had a history of a previous preterm birth,” Crowther said.
“This is good for pregnant women and health practitioners to know, so they won’t waste time and resources on an ineffective treatment.”