Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Progesterone Gel Reduces Risk of Early Preterm Birth

Pregnant Women With a Short Cervix May Benefit From Progesterone Therapy, Study Finds
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 6, 2011 -- Progesterone gel may reduce the chances of early preterm birth in some women who are considered high risk, according to new research in Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Babies born too early are at risk for many health problems, including breathing difficulty, blindness, deafness, and learning disabilities.

One out of every eight babies born in the U.S. is born prematurely, according to the March of Dimes. No one knows exactly what causes preterm birth, but there are certain risk factors, including history of preterm birth, carrying twins or triplets, and certain problems with the uterus or cervix.

The Study

Women in the study were at risk for preterm delivery because of a short cervix. The cervix is the part of the uterus that softens and dilates during labor. Adequate progesterone levels are needed to support a healthy pregnancy, and a short cervix may be a sign that progesterone is in short supply.

“Our study demonstrates that progesterone gel reduces the rate of early preterm delivery -- less than 33 weeks -- in women with a short cervix,” Roberto Romero, MD, program head for Perinatology Research and Obstetrics and chief of the Perinatology Research Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md., says in a news release. “Women with a short cervix can be identified through routine ultrasound screening. Once identified, they could be offered treatment with progesterone.”

The new study included 458 women who had a short cervix, from 44 medical centers across the globe. Women received a vaginal progesterone gel or a placebo gel between their 19th and 23rd week of pregnancy. Progesterone gel reduced the risk of preterm birth by 45% among women with a short cervix, the study showed.

There was an 8.9% rate of preterm delivery before 33 weeks among women who used the progesterone gel, compared with a 16.1% rate seen among women in the placebo group. What’s more, babies born to women who received the progesterone gel were also less likely to have respiratory distress syndrome.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

hand circling date on calendar
Track your most fertile days.
woman looking at ultrasound
Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
The signs to watch out for.
pregnant woman in hospital
Are there ways to do it naturally?
slideshow fetal development
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
What Causes Bipolar
Woman trying on dress in store
pregnant woman
Woman looking at pregnancy test
calendar and baby buggy
dark chocolate squares