Pessaries, which are small medical devices made of silicon, have been used for hundreds of years, yet they may now be carving out a new niche. According to a study recently published in the medical journal The Lancet, placing a pessary around the neck of the cervix of a pregnant woman with a high risk of premature birth might delay labor. Pessaries are currently used to treat stress incontinence and prevent the uterus from prolapsing, or falling out, into the vagina.
According to The New York Times, premature babies, even if they can be saved, are at risk of developing blindness, retardation, lung problems and cerebral palsy. By delaying labor, the pessary could help prevent these complications and disorders, which can also be caused medical malpractice. The study’s use of the device was intended to delay labor until it was safer for the mother and baby, the Times reported.
The study’s authors are not sure exactly how pessaries delay labor. The journal only stated that the study’s findings show that there is a possibility that the load-bearing capacities of pelvic organs could have some importance in beginning the labor process.
What was certain was a much lower percentage of premature births resulting from the high-risk expecting mothers’ use of pessaries: 27 percent of women who did not use pessaries had premature deliveries, as opposed to only six percent of those mothers who used the device.
Source: The New York Times, “Simple Device Helps Delay Birth to Lift Babies’ Chances of Survival,” Donald G. McNeil, Jr., April 30, 2012.