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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 24 May, 2018
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Viagra could be a really good thing for some pregnant women

The drug is good for more than one thing, you know.

Viagra tablets
Viagra tablets
Image: Shutterstock/Sean Nel

VIAGRA IS BEST known for one reason alone, but scientists in Cork are going to try and use it for a very different purpose – making babies grow in womb.

Director of the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT), Professor Lousie Kenny said the drug Viagra can be useful for a lot of conditions.

Small babies 

Viagra works by dilating blood vessels. One of the reasons why babies are small and have trouble growing in the womb is because blood vessels can be tightly restricted.

“Restricted growth in the womb affects about 3%-10% of babies. This results in babies that are very small being born early. This can result in significant health problems for the child later in life, such as Type 2 Diabetes,” said Professor Kenny.

“If this treatment works, it will be the first of its kind, as currently there is no treatment for small babies in the womb. All doctors can do now is monitor mother and baby and see when is best to deliver, which generally means the baby will be premature.”

Kenny acknowledges that any treatment on pregnant women has to be determined to be safe.

shutterstock_140548642 Source: Shutterstock/CristinaMuraca

“You have to be very careful as there are two patients involved – mother and baby. Over the last 15 or 20 years there has been an enormous amount of safety data collected on the safety of Viagra in pregnancy. It has even been given on a compassionate basis to some mothers whose babies are small and it has been found to work well.”

Research trials 

She said a trial is needed to determine this definitively. The STRIDER trial is just one of the clinical trials that will benefit from Health Research Board funding of €10 million.

Stroke patients, mothers and babies, primary care and intensive care patients will all benefit from the four new clinical trial networks who have received funding under the initiative.

Other projects to benefit are the PARROT trial, which will examine the use of a novel testing method for diagnosing Pre-eclampsia, a potentially life-threatening pregnancy complication caused by high blood pressure. 

Kenny said the condition effects more than 3% of pregnancies, which is rather high.

“We would see about 300 cases per year. There isn’t a huge understanding of the condition among mothers and non-obstetric doctors,” she said, highlighting that Ireland held its very first Pre-Clampsia awareness day last year.

“There needs to be more awareness as it is a life-threatening condition and there have been several maternal moralities in recent years.”

Read: Preeclampsia kills 76,000 pregnant women each year but warning signs can go unnoticed>

Read: Ireland has a Witness Protection Programme and we’ve spent €400k on it this year>

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