Viagra 'ineffective' for treating birth complications: study

Viagra 'ineffective' for treating birth complications: study

Viagra - commonly used to treat male erectile problems - has been found to be ineffective at improving outcomes for pregnancies complicated by foetal growth restriction, according to a study.

Foetal growth restriction, commonly called intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), occurs when the placenta has failed to develop correctly.

Survival for IUGR babies depends on the birth weight and the number of weeks they are at birth.

Therefore, a medication that can improve weight or prolong the time to deliver could have significant advantages for these very sick babies.

Sildenafil, commonly called Viagra, causes blood vessels to relax and has been used for many years for the treatment of male erectile problems.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool in the UK examined whether sildenafil could also cause the blood vessels supplying the placenta to relax and improve the blood supply to the placenta in IUGR pregnancies.

Improving the blood supply to the placenta should improve the growth and well-being of the IUGR baby.

As part of the study, researchers recruited 135 women from 19 foetal medicine units who were less than 30 weeks into their pregnancies with an IUGR baby.

Randomly 70 of the women were prescribed sildenafil and 65 women a placebo.

The results, published in the journal The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, found that when sildenafil was administered to pregnant women with a severely growth- restricted foetus, it did not prolong pregnancy, improve survival, or reduce short-term neonatal morbidity.

"Sadly the use of this drug in this way was ineffective," said Zarko Alfirevic, from the University of Liverpool.

"However, we are now monitoring the growth and development of the babies who participated in the trial to learn even more about this disease and its implications with a view to help us to identify possible treatment options in the future," Alfirevic said.

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