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Scientists to Give Pregnant Women Viagra in Clinical Trial in New Zealand

Update Date: Jul 15, 2013 05:39 PM EDT
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Viagra, the little magic blue pill for men with erectile problems, may also be the magic pill for treating under-developed babies.

A new clinical study in underway at the Auckland City Hospital in New Zealand where 120 pregnant women who are at higher risk of having a pre-term baby, will take a low dose of the drug sildenafil, according to The New Zealand Herald. These women will be compared with placebo pills to see if the active medicine improves growth and healthy survival rates of fetuses afflicted with severe intra-uterine growth restriction from before 30 weeks of pregnancy.

The study hopes to help at-risk babies from being born pre-term or even worse, stillborn. One of the common causes for a stillborn baby is due to the pregnancy disorder called pre-eclampsia. This is when the arteries feeding the placenta do not widen enough to deliver all the blood the baby needs. 

"There is currently no treatment for growth restriction, other than early delivery once a baby is in danger," said Dr Kate Groom, who is leading the research at the University of Auckland.

"If we can enhance foetal growth and delay delivery, we will improve babies' survival rates and reduce the many complications that can lead to life-long disability or disease."

However, the use of Viagra by pregnant moms is not new. Fifteen years ago, Professor Phil Baker who is the director of Gravida: National Center for Growth and Development in New Zealand, began testing the effects on pregnant women and found that it increases the blood flow to the womb and developing baby.

Using human tissue samples and animal studies, Prof Baker and other research groups around the world have since provided evidence that sildenafil may increase the growth rates of very small babies in the womb and help them to be born safely at a later gestation and at a healthier, larger size.

Findings from the initial trials in New Zealand and Australia are expected to be released by early 2017.

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