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Preventing Subsequent Premature Deliveries

Women who have had a preterm birth (delivery between 20 and 36 weeks of pregnancy) may talk with their healthcare provider about progesterone injections. Progesterone is a naturally occurring hormone during pregnancy. When begun early in the pregnancy, progesterone has been shown to lower the risk of another preterm birth. Use of progesterone is encouraged by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in such cases. Women who had a preterm pregnancy and are pregnant again, may discuss this treatment with a healthcare provider to see if this treatment is appropriate for them.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Question: How is the medication given?

Answer: Typically this medication is given as a weekly injection that is begun between 16 and 20 weeks of the pregnancy.

Question: What are the side effects of the medication?

Answer: Side effects for the mother are similar to other injections in that they may cause local irritation and redness.  It is not uncommon that some redness at the injection site occurs but this will go away with time.  Typically, your provider will rotate injection sites to minimize these side effects.

Question: What are the benefits to the baby?

Answer: Studies have shown that women with a prior preterm birth who receive this medication are 30 to 50% less likely to deliver early in a subsequent pregnancy.  This is noted to result in fewer admissions to the Neonatal Infant Care Unit (NICU), fewer breathing difficulties, and fewer days in the hospital.

Question: What are the dangers to the baby?

Answer: Progesterone has been used for many years in women experiencing a preterm birth.  Peer reviewed studies in such journals as the New England Journal of Medicine have not shown a cause and effect relationship between injections of progesterone and birth defects.

Question: What form of progesterone is used?

Answer: The type of progesterone that is used is 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone-Caproate, which is a naturally occurring progesterone that is found in pregnant women.

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