Clinical Trial Tests if Viagra Could Reduce the Risk of Placental Insufficiency

A recent clinical trial suggests that Viagra could be the key to reducing placental insufficiency.  During the trial, 300 women were equally administered sildenafil (Viagra) or a placebo.  The results, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology,  show that emergency operative birth rates were reduced by 51 percent among the women who received the sildenafil.

Details of the Clinical Trial

Researchers in Australia and New Zealand conducted a clinical trial to assess whether sildenafil (brand name Viagra) could reduce placental insufficiency, fetal distress and resulting emergency operative birth rates.  The trial took place from September 2015 to January 2019.

During the study, 300 women were randomly split into control and placebo groups.  The analysis occurred once the women were at term (38 weeks or more).  The control group received 50mg sildenafil citrate, up to a total dose of 150mg.  Researchers assessed a variety of risks and outcomes.  The results showed the following among the women receiving the sildenafil:

  • Emergency operative birth rate reduction of 51 percent
  • Meconium-stained liquor and pathologic heart rate pattern reduction of 43 percent

Study authors note that additional research and clinical trials are needed.  The current results, however, are promising.  Not only may sildenafil citrate be useful in reducing emergency c-sections, but some studies are also assessing whether it can be useful in treating severe fetal growth restriction.

The fact that sildenafil citrate is affordable and available in most areas only reinforces its potential usefulness.  The study notes that sildenafil citrate does not prevent causes of fetal compromise, such as umbilical cord prolapse, uterine rupture or placental abruption (ruptured placenta).  It can, however, potentially prevent fetal compromise due to restricted blood and oxygen flow.

In order to gain a better understanding of how sildenafil citrate could help reduce placental insufficiency, researchers are planning to expand their research.  In Australia, a larger trial with more than 3,000 women is already in the works.

What is Placental Insufficiency?

Placental insufficiency occurs when blood flow between the placenta and the fetus drops. Sometimes this is because of a small placenta.  As a result, the fetus does not get adequate amounts of blood, oxygen and vital nutrients.  Placental insufficiency can occur at different stages of pregnancy, but is more common in the second and third trimesters.

There are a variety of medical conditions that may cause placental insufficiency, such as:

  • Preeclampsia
  • HELLP syndrome
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Maternal blood clots
  • Blood thinning medication
  • Using tobacco products during pregnancy
  • Using illegal drugs during pregnancy

In addition, placental insufficiency can also occur naturally during labor.  During a contraction, blood flow between the placenta and the fetus can drop as much as 60 percent.  If blood and oxygen levels drop too low or they do not increase once the contraction ends, the fetus may go into distress.  It is in these cases that placental insufficiency can cause asphyxia.

Birth asphyxia resulting in oxygen deprivation is a leading contributor to emergency Cesarean (c-section) births.  It is a major cause of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, cerebral palsy and perinatal deaths.   Fetal distress caused by hypoxia is a problem across the world, and is a contributor in emergency c-section deliveries at the following rates:

  • United States – 27 percent
  • United Kingdom – 22 percent
  • Australia – 23 percent

In high-income countries, birth asphyxia is attributed to one in five cases of cerebral palsy.

What is Viagra?

Viagra is the most common brand name for .  Sildenafil citrate is a drug classified as a phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitor.  The drug relaxes the muscles in blood vessels thus increasing blood flow to certain areas of the body.  More specifically, it increases blood flow to the pelvic area.

Viagra is popular for treating erectile dysfunction in men.  There are more than 64 million prescriptions.  Sildenafil citrate under the brand name Revatio is also effective at treating pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

The clinical trial assessing the safety and efficacy of sildenafil citrate during labor showed that the drug increases blood flow to the uterus and placenta, and reverses vasoconstriction.  What’s more, reviews of pregnancy studies show that maternal side effects of using sildenafil citrate during labor are mild.

Why Placental Insufficiency Research is Important

Placental insufficiency is a serious complication that can have life-changing or even devastating impacts on an infant.  Researching ways to reduce the risk of placental insufficiency is important in preserving maternal and fetal health during pregnancy, labor and delivery.  Early detection and intervention is incredibly important in order to reduce the risk of complications or fetal death.

Meagan Cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She lends her expertise to the team at Birth Injury Guide to provide up-to-date and relevant content that clients can count on.

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