Mechanisms of progesterone action in inhibiting prematurity

Anna K. Sfakianaki, Errol R. Norwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Progesterone is a steroid hormone that plays an integral role in each step of human pregnancy. In early pregnancy, progesterone produced by the corpus luteum is critical to the maintenance of early pregnancy until the placenta takes over this function at 7 to 9 weeks of gestation, hence its name (pro-gestational steroid hormone). The role of progesterone in later pregnancy, however, is less clear. It has been proposed that progesterone may be important in maintaining uterine quiescence in the latter half of pregnancy by limiting the production of stimulatory prostaglandins and inhabiting the expression of contraction-associated protein genes within the myometrium. Although systemic progesterone withdrawl may not correlate directly with the onset of labour in humans, there is increasing evidence to suggest that progesterone exerts its influence indirectly via a 'functional' withdrawl at the level of the uterus. The molecular mechanisms by which progesterone is able to maintain uterine quiescence and prevent preterm birth in some high-risk women are not clear. Six putative mechanisms have been proposed in the literature by both US and other investigators and are explored in this review.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)763-772
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Parturition
  • Prematurity
  • Preterm birth
  • Progesterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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