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Babies born prematurely face an uphill battle. Many premature babies spend weeks in an intensive care unit to ensure that their bodies have developed enough to allow them to survive on their own. Unfortunately, premature babies who do not receive proper treatment in an intensive care unit can die or suffer serious injury, including lung problems and cerebral palsy.

A study recently published in the British medical journal Lancet, however, suggests that a simple device – a pessary – can delay birth in mothers at high risk for premature birth long enough to allow their babies a greater chance at survival. A pessary is a small silicon collar place around the neck of the cervix.

The major benefit of using a pessary is cost: they typically cost around $50 each and, if demand were greater, they could be manufactured for even lower prices. Properly placing a pessary requires ultrasound equipment, but this equipment is readily available in most hospitals and clinics around the world.

It is unclear how pessaries work. They have, however, been used for centuries in various forms.

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