Preventing Preterm Birth

Two new studies idenfity ways that reduce risk of premature birth

(RxWiki News) Two new studies show how progesterone treatments and oral hygiene help to prevent preterm birth.

In the first study, researchers found that three different proteins contribute to the success of progesterone treatments that help to prevent preterm labor. The proteins - called XIAP, BID, and Bci-2 - may also play a role in starting normal labor.

Led by Dr. Errol R. Norwitz, Ob/Gyn-in-Chief at Tufts Medical Center, a team of researchers discovered that these proteins reduce the risk of preterm birth by preventing cells in the fetal membrane from dying as they normally would. By keeping these cells alive, the fetal membranes become thicker and stronger. As a result, the risk of having a premature delivery is reduced because the strengthened fetal membranes are less likely to break too early.

Findings from the second study show that using non-alcohol antibacterial mouthwash that contains cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) reduces the risk of preterm birth.

According to Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, one of the study's authors, her team's findings show how minimizing the severity of gingivitis (the inflammation of the gums) by using a certain mouthwash is directly related to a decreased risk of preterm birth.

For their study, Dr. Jeffcoat and colleagues examined women at six to 20 weeks of pregnancy who had gingivitis yet refused dental care. The researchers divided the pregnant women into four groups: 1) those with prior preterm births; 2) those without prior preterm births; 3) smokers; and 4) non-smokers. Of 204 study participants, 49 were treated with a non-alcohol antibacterial mouthwash containing CPC, while the other 155 served as untreated controls.

The researchers found no substantial difference in smoking, prior preterm births, or alcohol consumption. However, the risk of preterm birth (in this case, defined as 35 weeks of pregnancy) was significantly less in the group that used the mouthwash compared to the untreated group.

Every year, over half a million babies are born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) in the United States. Premature births - also called preterm births - are the main cause of death among newborns. Premature infants who do survive have an increased chance of developing many lifelong health complications, compared to fully matured newborns. In the United States, preterm births account for $26 billion in health care costs per year.

Both of the above studies were presented this week at The Pregnancy Meeting™, the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

Review Date: 
February 11, 2011