Some doctors give their patients progesterone during the first trimester of pregnancy to increase their odds of becoming mothers, but a recent European study suggests that progesterone supplements may not prevent miscarriages at all.
A new trial that involved over 800 pregnant women with a history of miscarriage shows that the hormone did little to increase the chance of a live birth.
Study authors found that 65.8 percent of women who took progesterone became mothers as compared with 63.3 percent of women that were not given the supplement. Researchers said that the figures are not statistically significant.
The women who took part in the study were selected from 36 different sites across the U.K. and Netherlands. None of them knew whether they were given a progesterone supplement or a placebo because the drug was administered through suppositories.
Dr. Samantha M. Pfeifer, lead researcher at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine who was not part in the study, deemed the trial ‘awfully good.’ She also said that some people may be disappointed with the findings when they learn that their ‘magic bullet’ is not magical.
In the U.S., five percent of pregnant women go through two first-trimester miscarriages, while one percent can have even more. Doctors usually rely on supplementation with progesterone, which is a hormone naturally released by a woman’s body, to help their patients maintain their pregnancies.
While the finding may upset both health experts and couples, researchers say that there is also a bright side – more than half of women with a history of miscarriage had a baby. The study also found that progesterone supplementation does not promote abnormalities in unborn children.
“Progesterone doesn’t cause harm,”
said Dr. Arri Coomarasamy, lead researcher involved in the trial and gynecology expert with the University of Birmingham in the U.K.
Some critics of the study believe that researchers gave women progesterone when it was too late. For instance, Dr. Mary D. Stephenson of the University of Illinois at Chicago thinks that the best time to take progesterone may be after ovulation, and not necessarily when the woman finds that she’s pregnant.
Risk of miscarriages rises as women age since the chromosomal faults that trigger the unfortunate event become more frequent after a certain age. This is why the study involved only women that were no older than 39 years.
The study was published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
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