Mater Mothers’ Hospital is calling for pregnant women to participate in an Australian-first trial using Sildenafil - commonly known as Viagra® - to reduce the risk of caesarean births and forceps deliveries during labour and improve outcomes for the mother and baby.
Mater Research lead investigator Professor Sailesh Kumar said the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) had awarded a $3.4 million research grant for an Australia-wide trial which had the potential to change clinical practice for childbirth, both nationally and internationally.
“Our initial study demonstrated a 50 per cent reduction in women requiring an emergency caesarean or forceps birth for fetal distress when they took Sildenafil in the early stages of labour, because the drug improved the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the baby,” he said.
“We are now ready to commence the national trial which could have significant implications for childbirth outcomes across the world.”
Professor Kumar said 16 hospitals across Australia were participating in the ground-breaking research with 3200 women required to participate. Mater is the lead research centre for the trial.
Mater obstetrician and trial researcher Dr Tegan Triggs is 26 weeks pregnant with her second child. Her first birth was by caesarean because her baby showed signs of fetal distress.
“If Sildenafil had been available in my first labour, I may have been able to have a vaginal birth. I’m excited to be to be part of a project that has enormous potential to reduce complications during childbirth just by taking a simple and safe tablet,” she said.
Mater Health obstetrics and gynaecology Deputy Director Dr Emma Paterson said caesarean section rates across Australia could be as high as 30%.
“Approximately half of these are performed for emergency indications, like concerns for fetal well-being,” Dr Paterson said.
“At the Mater, safety is a priority for all mothers and babies during childbirth and it is so exciting to be part of research that may help reduce the need for emergency caesarean sections, in women desiring a vaginal birth.”
Professor Kumar said more than 60 per cent of babies who suffered fetal distress and oxygen deprivation in labour had no prior risk factors.
“Preventing fetal distress can greatly improve the short and longer-term health outcomes of the baby as well as the mother,” he said.
Prof Kumar said findings from the 2018 trial, funded by a donation from Golden Casket, were published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology last year.