Harvard Women's Health Watch

Does taking progesterone reduce miscarriage risk?

Ask the doctor

Q. My daughter is 42 and pregnant. She has had one miscarriage. I've read that progesterone may help prevent another one. Should she take it?

A. Miscarriage is more common as women get older, and for women in their 40s, over 40% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. The vast majority of the time, there is nothing that a woman or her doctor can do to change this outcome. Most of these are abnormal pregnancies, destined from the moment of conception to result in miscarriage, which is nature's way of ending them.

In the past, women who had recurrent miscarriage were prescribed progesterone to try to prevent miscarriage. Progesterone, which is produced by the ovaries, prepares the uterine lining for the implantation of the embryo and maintains a healthy pregnancy. Progesterone supplementation was based on the idea that miscarriages occurred because there was inadequate progesterone being produced to support the pregnancy. However, a new controlled clinical trial—the first to compare progesterone to placebo in women with recurrent miscarriage—showed no improvement in pregnancy outcomes. Still, nearly two-thirds had healthy pregnancies, with or without progesterone.

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