New research conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that during pregnancy, the hormone progesterone helps prevent the uterus from contracting and going into labor prematurely, which may cause some women to experience preterm or prolonged labor. In the first-of-its-kind study, scientists have shown how unbalanced progesterone receptor signaling can affect pregnancy duration.
Progesterone is a hormone released by the ovaries that the female body produces after ovulation during the second half of the menstrual cycle. During pregnancy, the molecular signaling involving the progesterone receptor, PGR-A and PGR-B, prevent the uterus from contracting and going into labor prematurely.
Previous research indicated that PGR-A regulated the initiating process of childbirth, while PGR-B affected the molecular pathways related to maintaining the course of pregnancy. The new research builds on those findings as the researchers found PGR-A promotes muscle contractions, while PGR-B prevented such contractions.
The hope is that the study may aid clinicians in advancing treatment for labor dystocia, abnormally slow or protracted labor. Preterm birth affects 10% of all pregnancies and is the primary cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality. On the other side of the spectrum, prolonged labor increases the risks of infection, uterine ruptures, and neonatal distress. Understanding the function of the proteins, PGR-A and PGR-B, allows clinicians to regulate the activities through drugs and hormones.
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