In case you missed it, today’s print edition of the New York Times reports on a study of a new hormone treatment that could prevent thousands of preterm births each year – averting the associated long-term health problems for babies born too soon. The therapy, an easy-to-use progesterone gel, reduced early deliveries in women with a short cervix by 45 percent:
Dr. Roberto Romero, chief of the perinatology research branch at the National Institutes of Health, estimated that as many as 2 percent of the nation’s 500,000 annual preterm births could be prevented, leading 10,000 more babies a year to be born at full term. Screening all pregnant women and treating those found to have short cervixes would save the nation’s health system $12 million a year, Dr. Romero said.
The finding dovetails nicely with a new research effort, the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University School of Medicine, which was launched March 30 with the goal of understanding and preventing preterm births. This type of research is badly needed: Right now, in more than half of preterm deliveries, we don’t understand why labor begins too early.