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Progesterone Deficiency and Premature Labour

Br Med J 1974; 1 doi: (Published 26 January 1974) Cite this as: Br Med J 1974;1:137

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. A. I. Csapo,
  2. O. Pohanka,
  3. H. L. Kaihola


    Plasma oestradiol 17β and progesterone levels in 11 patients admitted to hospital for threatened premature labour of unknown aetiology were compared with those of women at similar stages of gestation whose pregnancy was normal. Oestradiol levels in the study group were slightly higher than in the normal controls but their progesterone levels were significantly lower. This progesterone deficiency increased the oestradiol/progesterone ratio in the study group patients, and it increased still more as the progesterone withdrawal continued during premature labour.

    Since uterine activity during pregnancy is regulated by a balanced action of several factors a deficiency in progesterone, an opponent of uterine activity, creates a regulatory imbalance which, if uncorrected, provokes premature labour. An increase in uterine volume stimulates uterine activity, and the present study reinforced our previous conclusion that the uterine-volume/plasma-progesterone ratio is a more accurate measure of the state of regulatory balance than the progesterone level alone.

    The cause of the progesterone deficiency in these cases remains unexplained, but we suggest that placental growth and function are contributory factors. We are investigating ways of correcting the resulting imbalance in the regulatory mechanism.