Could a hormone shot prevent miscarriage?

Jan 11, 2017 at 12:53 p.m. ET
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A shot of progesterone may help prevent miscarriage, new research suggests.

According to a study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, women who have previously had two or more unexplained pregnancy losses less than 10 weeks into their pregnancies have a greater chance of carrying a pregnancy to term when they take the hormone, which is naturally produced in both men and women.

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Of the group of women who took part in the study, two-thirds of them delivered their babies successfully following the progesterone treatment, which involved inserting supplements of the hormone into the vagina in the second half of the menstrual cycle.

How does it work? In simple terms, the progesterone helps to maintain the health of the lining of the uterus — and the timing is crucial, as the days following fertilization are when the fertilized ovum needs to be successfully implanted into the uterus wall.

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Progesterone also makes sure the uterus has enough dilated blood vessels to feed the growing embryo (until the placenta is created at around 10 weeks and forms its own blood supply), encourages the growth of breast tissue and ensures a woman's body doesn't produce milk until the baby is born.

The effect of progesterone on miscarriage was first studied by doctors in the 1950s, and there remains some debate over whether injections of the hormone are effective in preventing miscarriage. According to Healthline, progesterone treatments are prescribed "because there aren't a lot of other options out there for women who've had recurring miscarriages."

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