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Natural child birth

The surge in Caesarean deliveries can be eased by an experimental dual drug approach.

health and fitness Updated: Feb 04, 2004 22:11 IST
ANI
ANI
PTI

New research indicates that the surge in induced labour and Caesarean deliveries can be eased by an experimental dual drug approach.

The findings conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois and published in the January issue of the 'American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology' observes that this will not only safely jump-start labor, but also remodel the cervix to allow for speedy natural deliveries.

A combination of RU 486 (mifepristone) and relaxin successfully hastened labor and promoted healthy delivery of pups in rats altered so that their reproductive systems mimicked the human reproductive system, Relaxin, a naturally occurring reproductive hormone, was the key to the natural delivery.

"Although the study was done with rats, it was designed with the idea that RU 486 and relaxin could be used at delivery in the human being. The results are compelling," O. David Sherwood, a professor of molecular and integrative physiology, said.

According to Shuangping Zhao, a postdoctoral researcher in Sherwood's laboratory, RU 486, an antiprogresterone when given alone, induced labor in the rats. However, the cervix did not grow, leading to prolonged delivery and pup deaths.

"If relaxin works in the human,it will likely not only shorten the duration of painful labor, but also reduce the incidence of Caesarean sections. This would be very beneficial for women and reduce health-care costs," she said.

Genentech experimented without success administering relaxin in the vagina as a topical treatment in the 1990s, hoping it would penetrate the epithelial cells, enter the bloodstream and reach target cells in the cervix.

Relaxin production increases as birth approaches in many species, but in humans it declines, and blood levels are extremely low in the third trimester when relaxin is needed the most, Sherwood said.

The experimental rats used in the study were treated with antibodies to block relaxin's actions in the late stages of pregnancy to reflect the lack of hormonal activity of the human female.

RU 486, which was approved for use in the United States in 2000, has been used for many years in other countries to terminate pregnancies early.

Induced labor has risen from 9 percent to more than 20 percent of U.S. childbirths since 1989. Caesarean sections now account for about 25 percent of all births, mostly because of fetal stress resulting from a failure of the cervix to soften and expand.