Metformin trialled as anti-obesity drug for unborn babies

Wed, 11 May 2011
A new study is to be carried out into the use of the diabetes drug metformin for reducing the weight of babies . The three-year study will monitor hundreds of pregnant women around the UK to assess if the drug can lower obesity rates and the amount of difficult births.

Rather than trying to help the expectant mother lose weight, the drug would help keep the weight of the unborn baby down by reducing the levels of blood sugar passed to babies in the womb, an approach that is already being used to treat expectant mothers with diabetes .

Metformin will be given to half of the expectant mothers taking part in the trial, from 12 weeks into their pregnancy, with the other half receiving a placebo . It is hoped the treatment will prevent the birth of overweight babies and bring down the need to carry out caesarean sections as well as pre-eclampsia .

Andrew Weeks, who is leading the trial, commented "It is about trying to improve outcomes in pregnancy for women who are overweight. The problem is babies tend to be larger and many of the downsides of being overweight during pregnancy relate to the birth."

Although some weight-loss experts have expressed concern, Jane Norman, a representative of pregnancy charity Tommy's, also pointed out "We have to be careful with the use of drugs in pregnancy but we already know that it is safe to give expectant mothers. It is likely that Metformin will prevent babies from getting too big and, putting all these factors together, I am confident that the benefits will outweigh the risks."
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