Pregnant women who risk early labor and delivery may soon be able to opt for a topical hormone-laden gel treatment during their 19th to 23rd weeks of pregnancy to ward off a preterm birth.
Approximately 500,000 premature babies are born in the United States each year, according to Dr. Roberto Romero of the National Institutes of Health. Mothers-to-be with a short cervix are at a higher risk of giving birth to a premature baby. Approximately 100,000 women in the United States develop a shortened cervix during the second trimester of pregnancy.
The gel, made of natural progesterone hormones, is applied directly to the cervix.
Initial Treatment Results
Results were released on April 6 regarding a study of the gel conducted at 44 medical facilities around the world by Romero and Prochieve hormone-gel creator Columbia Laboratories Inc., according to an Associated Press news report.
Of the 458 at-risk women in the study, 45 percent of them did not give birth before 33-weeks of gestation.
Sixteen percent of the study participants who were given a placebo had a preterm birth, compared to nine percent who delayed labor until after 33-weeks gestation.
No serious side effects were noticed among the gel users. Babies born to mothers who used the gel had higher birth weights and less respiratory complications than the babies born without use of the gel, according to a Reuters news report.
NIH and Columbia Laboratories Inc. are currently seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration to label the drug for usage among women with a short cervix.
Cost Effectiveness and Planning
Since the study by the National Institutes of Health was just released today, more details will become available about hormone-laden gels to reduce preterm births in the coming months.
Current news reports fail to mention how often the gel must be applied to effectively halt early labor. At $20 per dosage -- plus office visit fees -- the medical cost for this treatment could climb quickly depending on the frequency of application.
But, what price can you put on staving off the possibility of having a premature baby with long-term health conditions and developmental disabilities? None.
Has your gynecologist or obstetrician talked with you about using a hormone-laden gel to prevent preterm birth during a current or future pregnancy?
Photo by Topato, Flicker/Wikimedia Commons