Miscarriages are sadly one of the most common experiences in a woman’s reproductive life. About twenty percent of all pregnancies end with a mother losing her baby to miscarriage, most often in the first trimester. Some women will tragically experience the same devastating loss over and over again, without doctors being able to provide much of an explanation. Now, new studies have revealed that supplementing with one simple hormone could offer moms and babies a better chance: Progesterone.
The Independent reports that the research was a team effort between scholars from the University of Birmingham and Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research in the United Kingdom. One study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, looked at more than 800 women in the U.K. and the Netherlands who had experienced repeated miscarriages. Researchers observed that patients who received progesterone supplementation wound up with a 3 percent higher live-birth rate.
A second study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology evaluated 4,153 women being treated at U.K. hospitals. All of the patients had early pregnancy bleeding, a scary symptom that can sometimes presage a miscarriage. Results revealed that for moms who had already suffered at least one prior loss, progesterone supplementation meant 5 percent more babies were born alive. Women who received a placebo didn’t show the same benefit.
In the most desperate cases, for women who had at least three prior miscarriages, progesterone was found to boost the live birth rate by an amazing fifteen percent.
How Progesterone Reduces Miscarriages
Given that about 1 million miscarriages occur in the United States alone every year, these studies suggest tens of thousands of pregnancies could possibly be saved.
The Independent quotes senior researcher Dr. Adam Devall, “The role of first trimester progesterone supplementation in the treatment of pregnancies at high risk of miscarriage is a long-standing research question that has been debated in medical literature for over 60 years.” But this isn’t news to Fertility Awareness practitioners and NaProTechnology-trained physicians. For decades, they’ve known that progesterone hormones can be key to helping prevent miscarriage.
How? “In pregnancy, progesterone will maintain the uterine lining, provide endometrial nutrition for the fetus, and will prevent premature uterine contractions,” Allison Jung, a physician’s assistant specializing in OB-GYN medicine, wrote for Natural Womanhood earlier this year. If a pregnant mom’s body doesn’t naturally make enough progesterone to keep her uterus a safe, healthy environment for her growing baby, she could experience a “chemical pregnancy,” a common term for a very early miscarriage. Although a test at her doctor’s office may reveal low levels of pregnancy hormones in her blood stream, and an at-home urine test may show a faint positive, a woman who suffers this form of miscarriage will begin bleeding at around 5 weeks gestation, days before the pregnancy can be seen on ultrasound. Some women who aren’t tracking their cycles may interpret the bleeding as simply a “late period” and not realize what has happened. “A woman may experience miscarriage later in the first trimester if she has low progesterone and the endometrial secretions are weak, thus starving the fetus before the placenta can take over,” Jung writes.
Low progesterone can affect gestational health in the late stages of pregnancy, too. Since the hormone helps the uterus grow and keeps it from contracting, progesterone supplementation is a very important way to protect moms and babies from the dangers of premature birth during the late second and early third trimesters.
How can a woman know whether she has low progesterone? She doesn’t have to wait to get pregnant to find out. By pro-actively charting her menstrual cycle with a Fertility Awareness-Based Method (FABM), a woman and her healthcare team can detect potential problems, including progesterone deficiency. For instance, her charts may reveal an abnormally-short luteal phase. The luteal phase is the part of a woman’s cycle that begins after ovulation and lasts until her period begins. If charts show fewer than 10 days between ovulation and menstrual bleeding, and especially if this is coupled with tale-end brown bleeding at the end of menstruation, this suggests that a progesterone deficiency may be the culprit.
How do NaPro doctors address progesterone deficiency?
Unlike mainstream OB/GYNs, NaPro doctors don’t use birth-control pills, which flood the body with a constant dose of a synthetic, factory-made version of progesterone, called progestin, every day. In a healthy woman, progesterone is highest after ovulation, so that’s when NaPro doctors supplement with bio-identical progesterone and personalize the dose for the individual woman, using the patient’s charts as a guide to determine when the medication should be administered. Some women take progesterone as a pill–either orally or as a vaginal suppository–but the best-absorbed form is “progesterone in oil” intramuscular injections.
What about after conception? “If a woman is pregnant, her NaPro doctor will evaluate her natural progesterone production every two weeks throughout her entire pregnancy. Replacement will depend on her lab levels and how far along she is in the pregnancy; progesterone should only be replaced to physiological levels,” Jung writes. The emphasis is on restoring the body to as close to a natural healthy performance as possible.
The U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says it is updating its treatment guidelines on managing potential miscarriage, taking into account the new evidence about the efficacy of progesterone in preventing miscarriage. The new research is once again backing up the value of using FABM and NaPro principles in women’s health. That is great, exciting news for moms and their babies!