Obese fetus? Let mom pop a pill, doc says
Trial gives overweight moms-to-be diabetes drug to slim their unborn babies
By JoNel Aleccia Health writer
updated 5/23/2011 9:15:22 AM ET 2011-05-23T13:15:22
A British doctor is hoping to battle obesity in babies still in the womb by giving their heavy mothers pills to prevent more weight gain.
Dr. Hassan Shehata wants to keep potentially pudgy babies from tipping the scales too high at birth, which can expose them — and their moms — to serious complications and lifelong problems.
The solution, he believes, is to give the pregnant, obese women the popular diabetes drug metformin — even though the expectant mothers don’t actually have the disease.
“Metformin is now a drug which is very safely used in pregnancy for gestational diabetes,” said Shehata, a maternal health specialist at Epsom and St. Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust in Surrey, England. “We now wish to examine its potential for obese women who do not have diabetes.”
About 75 women have enrolled so far in the clinical trial that eventually will expand to eight sites and 2,178 women, according to registration documents at ClinicalTrials.gov.
The trial, which began last fall and is expected to last until December 2013, will compare the results of participants who take up to 3,000 milligrams of metformin daily with those who take placebos. Both groups will follow diet and exercise plans.
Fewer obese babies
Shehata hopes to show that fewer babies born to women who take the drug will have high birth weights — 10 pounds or more — which lands them in the 90th percentile for weight and effectively brands them as obese. Smaller babies will result in fewer complications for mother and child, he says.
“By dropping the baby’s weight, the prevalence of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and hemorrhage will be lower,” Shehata said, listing several common causes of maternal complications and death. “For me, I have to say, metformin ticks all the boxes.”
The trial also will track how much weight the mothers gain, and complications of pregnancy including development of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, C-sections, birth trauma and other problems.