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Couple Depressed By First Miscarriage Bear Two Children Thanks to Progesterone

Couple Depressed By First Miscarriage Bear Two Children Thanks to Progesterone

After suffering a miscarriage at 22 weeks, Katrina Cliffe thought she would never have children again until she started progesterone treatment.

Lying on a hospital bed as doctors battled to save her unborn child, Katrina Cliffe said a prayer and clung to the hope that everything would be all right but she eventually lost the baby. The boy, who Katrina and John had named Casey, was too premature to survive and the couple who had been preparing for their first child were now arranging his funeral.

Tests showed Katrina had an “incompetent cervix”, where the small canal at the base of the womb shortens and dilates before the baby is due.

It is a chief cause of late miscarriage or pre-mature birth and can recur.

Around one in 100 UK women like Katrina suffer recurrent miscarriage. But now, doctors believe a simple treatment could stop it. Studies show taking progesterone – a hormone created in the body – helps keep babies in the womb longer.

And now no one is more convinced of its powers than Katrina. Five months after losing Casey, she got pregnant again. This time, doctors stitched her cervix to stop it dilating too early, and monitored her. Things went better this time – but it was still risky. Her daughter, Stevie was born seven weeks early at just 4lbs12oz.

“She had to spend 17 days on the special care ward,” says Katrina. She and John desperately wanted a little brother or sister for Stevie, but were terrified of losing another child.

“I felt I was pushing my luck trying for another,” says Katrina. “I was still struggling with what happened to Casey. I didn’t want to go through that again.”

But when Stevie was five, Katrina got pregnant again. This time her consultant raised the progesterone solution.

“I’d spoken to couples on an online support group who’d benefited from it,” says Katrina. “I wanted to try it.”

When she was seven weeks gone, she began having injections twice a week. At three months, she had a cervical stitch and was on bed rest.

She says: “I got to 34 weeks and I felt huge. I’d never got to that stage before so I had never seen myself with such a big bump. It was fantastic.”

In June 2011, Katrina gave birth to another girl, Jaime, just a day before her due date.

She weighed 8lbs 13oz. “I’m convinced without the progesterone injections I wouldn’t have got to full term,” says Katrina. “It felt different from the start.”

Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at King’s College London, says it is widely believed progesterone plays a vital role in pregnancy.

“The word progesterone means ‘maintain pregnancy’,” he says. “It’s produced by the placenta, and we know if you give drugs that stop progesterone it triggers labour. That’s how abortion drugs work. In the 1990s, doctors started trying using progesterone to prevent pre-mature birth and it seemed to help.”

Clinical trials have shown giving progesterone to at-risk mothers halves the risk of premature birth – and the group that seem to benefit the most are women like Katrina, whose cervixes shorten and open too early.

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Cervical weakness can occur because of a termination or surgery due to an abnormal smear. It’s also related to smoking and may be more common in certain ethnic groups.

But Prof Shennan adds: “There’s a significant number who have it despite having no risk factors.”

Just how progesterone helps with premature birth isn’t clear, but it may be due to its anti-inflammatory properties or the fact that it causes the tissues of the body to relax.

The hormone, which is given as an injection or a pessary, is widely used in America and Europe. UK doctors are more cautious, and many think more research is needed to be certain there are no long-term risks to mother or baby.

Marketing agency boss Katrina, of Huddersfield, however, will always be grateful she was offered the treatment.

This year, to mark what would have been Casey’s 10th birthday, she and John began fundraising for charity Tommy’s, which funds research into stillbirth and miscarriage.

They’ve already raised more than £6,500 and want to hit their target of £10,000 by June. “I’m incredibly thankful for Stevie and Jaime, but I still think of Casey every day. I want to do everything I can to stop people having to go through what I went through.”

Source: Mirror UK

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