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  • Nasal spray may reduce the risk of postpartum haemorrhage

    Author: AAP

Australian researchers have developed an inhalable form of the 'love' hormone oxytocin which they believe could prevent thousands of pregnant women dying.

A nasal spray based on the "love drug" oxytocin and developed by Australian researchers is being hailed as a potential way to reduce the number of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth.

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Researchers from Monash University say the results from a small study using an inhalable powder form of the hormone indicate it could be used to reduce the risk of postpartum haemorrhage.

Postpartum haemorrhage, or excessive blood loss, is the most common cause of death among the more than 300,000 women living in poor countries who die each year during pregnancy and childbirth.

Doctors in wealthier countries often give women oxytocin injections to prevent postpartum haemorrhage after they give birth.

The oxytocin works by stimulating contractions in the uterus to help compress blood vessels at the placenta site after the placenta is delivered following birth.

However as the injections need to be kept refrigerated, the Monash researchers wanted to test whether an inhalable form of oxytocin that doesn't need to be kept cold would be as effective at preventing excessive bleeding.

They carried out a trial among a small group of non-pregnant women and found that the effects on the body were not that different if oxytocin was administered by injection or inhaled.

Associate professor Michelle McIntosh, who led the study, said the results offered hope that many pregnant women without access to first-world medical resources may be able to soon receive the inhalable oxytocin.

"These results show that oxytocin can be delivered similarly via inhalation or injection and therefore we are less likely to be required to conduct the extensive and costly trials needed for an entirely new drug," she said on Wednesday.

"Instead, we should be able to move forward with trials on a much smaller scale, featuring patients numbering in the hundreds rather than tens of thousands, potentially making the medicine available much sooner."

The oxytocin hormone, which is produced in the brain in both men and women, is commonly known as the "love drug" as it helps mums bond with their babies and also helps promote feelings of well-being and attraction.

Results from the Monash study, which was part-funded by pharmaceutical giant GSK, were announced overnight at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.


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