Questions and Answers About 17P and Preterm Births


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What is preterm (premature) birth?

Preterm birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, or more than three weeks early. Babies that are born too early can have health problems such as brain damage, asthma, and problems with vision. Preterm birth is also the leading cause of infant death in Mississippi.

Even "late preterm" babies (those born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation) are at increased risk for serious health problems compared with babies born full-term. Examples of health problems facing late-preterm babies include feeding difficulties, breathing problems, and jaundice. For babies, an extra week or two before birth can make a huge difference.

Who is at risk?

The greatest risk for preterm birth is having had a prior preterm birth. Women who have already had a premature baby need special attention when they are pregnant. African-American babies are also at high risk of being born too early. About one out of every six babies in Mississippi is born too soon.

What is 17P?

Sometimes a baby will be born early no matter what the mother and her health care providers do. But there is one thing some women can do to help increase their chances of having a full-term baby — 17P!

17P is a progesterone medicine that can help prevent preterm birth in some pregnant women who have already had a preterm birth. Progesterone is a hormone that a woman's body makes naturally during pregnancy. Extra progesterone for some women can help to prevent another preterm birth.

Talk to your doctor about 17P if you have already had a preterm birth of a single baby, if you are pregnant now, and if you are pregnant with only one baby.

How can you get 17P?

You should talk to your health care provider if you think 17P might help you. Even if he or she doesn't mention 17P, ask!

17P is a shot that must be given every week, starting in the second trimester – usually between 16 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. The shot is given in the upper thigh or hip. Some women report soreness, swelling, itching, or bruising at the site of the injection. The shot is needed every week so there is a steady supply of 17P in the body. If you use 17P, it is very important that you get all of the shots once you start. The shots will be given until at least 37 weeks of pregnancy.

How well does 17P work?

There is no promise 17P will lead to a full-term pregnancy, but it may decrease your chances of having another preterm birth.

17P lowers a woman's risk of repeat preterm birth by one-third (33%). Nothing else lowers the risk of repeat preterm birth as well as 17P.

Remember, getting your 17P shot every week may be the single best thing you can do to help keep your baby from coming too early. For babies, even an extra week or two before birth can make a big difference.

Do I have to pay for 17P?

If you have Medicaid, you do not have to pay for 17P. If you don't have insurance, you may be eligible to receive it free — check with your doctor or health care provider.

Preventing Preterm Births

While 17P can help lower the chance for another premature birth, there are other things that pregnant mothers can do.

  • Go to all prenatal care appointments, even if you feel fine.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, talk to your doctor or nurse about quitting.
  • Talk to your health care provider about how you can manage medical problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Use a condom when you have sex to protect against sexually transmitted infections.
  • Talk to your doctor about any drugs, medicines, or herbal remedies you are taking.
  • Rest and relax whenever you can. Ask friends and family for help.
  • Ask for help if you don't feel safe with your partner. Abuse often gets worse during pregnancy.
  • Talk to your doctor if you feel burning or pain when you urinate OR if you notice a discharge from your vagina that has an unusual color or odor. You may have an infection.
  • See a dentist for a dental exam and cleaning.
  • Call your doctor immediately if you have any signs of preterm labor.

What are the signs of preterm labor?

It is important to know the signs of early labor, because 17P is not a promise that your baby won't come early. The signs of early labor are:

  • Bleeding
  • Feeling that the baby is balling up
  • Contractions (your belly tightens like a fist) every 10 minutes or less
  • Changes in vaginal discharge (leaking fluid)
  • Pelvic pressure (feeling that your baby is pushing down)
  • Low, dull backache
  • Cramps that feel like your period
  • Abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea
  • Feeling that something is not right

Call your doctor, midwife, or nurse right away if you have any of these signs!

Where can you get help?

Women who have already had a premature baby may fee more stressed and worried than other mothers. Now is the time to let others help you. Reach out to friends and family members. Ask people in your community for help if you need it.

It can be hard to get to your health care provider's office for the 17P shot every week. Don't be afraid to talk to your health care provider about finding a time that works for both of you.

If you receive Medicaid, you may be able to receive services from a pregnancy care manager. Your care manager can help you get the resources you need during your pregnancy, and help make sure you don't miss any 17P shots. Ask your health care provider about pregnancy care management services.

Helpful resources for pregnant women in Mississippi

  • Contact your local health department for prenatal services and information.
  • Text BABY to 511411 to get free messages on your cell phone to help you through your pregnancy and you baby's first year. For more information, visit text4baby.org.
  • The Mississippi Quitline offers free, confidential, one-on-one support to help you or someone you love quit smoking. 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or QuitlineMS.com.
  • The March of Dimes offers lots of information about pregnancy, childbirth and newborns. They have great information for parents who have had preterm babies. MarchOfDimes.com

This material made possible by a partnership with the North Carolina Department of Public Health.

Last reviewed on May 13, 2022
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