Viagra may help accelerate babies’ growth in womb

Pregnant women whose babies are failing to grow at a normal rate in the womb may be given Viagra, as scientists believe the erectile dysfunction drug could accelerate foetal growth.

The Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (Infant) in Cork is looking for women who are no more than 30 weeks’ pregnant and whose unborn babies have Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) to take part in a clinical trial involving viagra.

Viagra opens blood vessels, so the logic is that greater blood flow to the womb could help boost growth of the foetus.

The Strider trial has begun across New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and the UK and is set to be launched across six maternity wards in Ireland.

Growth restrictions in babies are usually picked up at the 20-week ultra scan. The condition can lead to complications during pregnancy such as pre-term delivery, still birth and problems after the delivery.

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Project manager of the trial, Yvonne Clune, who is based at the Infant centre at Cork University Maternity Hospital said it was a novel and exciting use of the drug.

“It is fantastic that Cork is heading it in an Irish context,” said Dr Clune. “It is being funded by the Irish Health Research Board and we will need 112 women over a two-year period. Thankfully, the incidence of IUGR is low enough. All the countries are collaborating so all of the results will be analysed in conjunction with the other trials.

“The safety data is there for Viagra and it can be taken in pregnancy in these circumstances. Our trial will get underway in the next two to three months. It is an extremely exciting time for us.”

IUGR has many possible causes, one of which is a problem with the placenta.

Participants in the study will take a tablet three times a day. Some will take viagra and others a placebo.

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