Be Cautious With Taking Prescription Drugs When Pregnant: The Case Of Viagra

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

In a recent clinical trial involving 183 pregnant women in the Netherlands, the drug sildenafil (also sold under the trade name-Viagra) was tested to increase blood flow to the placenta and improve growth of unborn babies. This was supposed to be a groundbreaking trial to help the babies who were not growing properly in the womb. The theory behind this clinical trial was that Viagra would help dilate the placental blood vessels, increase the size of the placenta, and thus increase the blood supply to the fetus and its development.

However, during the intermediate analysis of this trial a devastating outcome surfaced. Out of the 93 women who took Viagra, 19 gave birth to premature babies. Eleven of those babies died soon after their birth due to developing high blood pressure in the lungs which was attributed to the tested drug. Earlier similar clinical trials conducted in the UK, Australia and New Zealand did not show any specific benefit from using sildenafil, and the authors of that trial concluded that it should not be prescribed to pregnant women. Unfortunately, this Viagra trial is a reminder of the Thalidomide tragedy in the 1950s, where thousands of babies were born with severe birth defects and upper and lower limb deformities when pregnant women were given a drug to reduce symptoms of morning sickness.

Pregnancy is one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life and every expectant mother wants to deliver a healthy baby. While some women may need prescription drugs during their pregnancy, it is important to remember that all pharmaceutical drugs are associated with side effects. Pregnant women are one such population where clinical trials and testing of any drugs is difficult. As a result, many prescription medications are often given to pregnant women without appropriate testing. Commonly used drugs such as painkillers, statins, antidepressants, and antibiotics can adversely affect the health of babies sooner or later in their lives. Until the monitoring of the surviving children born to the mothers participating in the Dutch trials is completed, it will not be known whether Viagra has any long-term detrimental effects on their health. This study certainly poses a major concern for pregnant women and forces them to think about the safety of prescription drugs during pregnancy.

Viagra is the drug currently prescribed for erectile dysfunction in men since it helps in dilating the blood vessels and increasing the blood flow. This is mediated by increasing the production of a substance called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a natural substance that acts as a relaxing factor for blood vessel walls and is important in maintenance of healthy blood pressure. However, a similar effect can be achieved by arginine, an amino acid which is the only natural source of nitric oxide in the human body.

Arginine is termed as a “conditionally essential amino acid” for humans. In pregnant women, it can also help in supporting growth of the fetus by stimulating the release of growth hormone. Arginine is especially essential for prematurely born or low birth weight infants to gain weight. Together with other micronutrients arginine also acts as a natural inhibitor of tissue destruction. It reduces the risk of premature rupture of fetal membranes, which is one of the causes of premature delivery. It also helps in a faster recovery of mother’s tissues after the delivery. Vitamin C, in combination with arginine, magnesium and other micronutrients, helps to support elasticity of the blood vessels and maintain normal blood pressure of the pregnant woman, and is important for women with pregnancy-induced high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia). Arginine supplementation is safe and it provides additional health benefits during the course of pregnancy.

When prescription drugs continue to be the third leading cause of death in the USA and Europe, it is important to remember that proper nutrition and supplementation with vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids and other micronutrients is more important for a developing fetus and the expectant mother than drugs.

Ref: https://www.dr-rath-foundation.org/2018/08/lessons-from-fatal-viagra-pregnancy-study-safe-natural-alternatives-should-take-priority-in-clinical-trials/

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