A hormone drug which could prevent more than 8,000 miscarriages a year and “spare heartache” for parents has been approved for use in certain cases.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has said some women at higher risk of miscarriage can be offered progesterone.
Pregnancy charity Tommy’s, which has carried out “many years” of research into progesterone, said the move will “help save babies’ lives” and is hoping the recommendation will end “some inequalities in miscarriage care”.
NICE estimates that around 1,200 women with prior miscarriage and bleeding in early pregnancy could be eligible for treatment with progesterone each year.
However, Tommy’s said the move could prevent as many as 8,450 miscarriages a year.
NICE said pregnant women who experience bleeding and have previously had a miscarriage can be offered 400mg of micronised progesterone twice daily.
If a foetal heartbeat is confirmed, it is recommended treatment with progesterone should continue until 16 weeks of pregnancy have been completed, NICE said.
NICE’s independent guidelines committee said the hormone – which helps to prepare the womb for the baby – should not be offered to women with early pregnancy bleeding, but no previous miscarriage.
It should also not be prescribed to women with previous miscarriage, but no early bleeding in the current pregnancy.
But it has called for more research in these two areas.
It said there is no evidence of harm to the mother or baby from the use of progesterone, although it was unable to rule out the possibility of rare events.
Tommy’s chief executive Jane Brewin said: “It’s great to see NICE taking our progesterone research on board in their new miscarriage care guidelines, which will help save babies’ lives and spare parents heartache.
“Miscarriage is often dismissed as ‘one of those things’ we can’t do anything about – even by some healthcare professionals, who may not specialise in this area to know the latest evidence.
“We hear from women who were denied progesterone treatment when they should have been eligible, simply because their doctor wasn’t familiar with it, so we hope NICE’s recommendation will help end some of these inequalities in miscarriage care that add more pain to an already unbearable experience.”
Professor Arri Coomarasamy, director of Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research at the University of Birmingham, said: “The miscarriage care guidelines from NICE include a very welcome change, after many years researching the use of progesterone and working to make treatment more accessible.
“Our research has shown that progesterone is a robust and effective treatment option but we know it’s not yet reaching everyone who might benefit.
“This new recommendation from NICE is an important step in tackling the current variation in miscarriage services across the country and preventing these losses wherever possible.”