By JULIE -ANNE BARNES | MAIL ONLINE | APRIL 1, 2012
Babies are being medicated in the womb in an attempt to prevent them from being born obese.
In a world first, dangerously overweight mothers-to-be in four British cities have started taking a diabetes drug during their pregnancy.
The doctors behind the controversial NHS trial say that obesity among pregnant women is reaching epidemic proportions and they need to act now to protect the health of tomorrow’s children.
However, there is likely to be unease about resorting to medication in pregnancy for a problem that can be treated through changes in diet and exercise.
If the strategy is a success, the treatment could be in widespread use in as little as five years, with tens of thousands of overweight but otherwise healthy mothers-to-be drugged each year.
The Daily Mail recently revealed the rise of the ‘sumo baby’, with the number of newborns weighing more than 11lb soaring by 50 per cent over the last four years.
More than 15 per cent of pregnant women are obese. This raises their odds of dying in pregnancy, of their baby being stillborn and of a host of pregnancy complications, some of which can be fatal.
Big babies are around twice as likely to grow into overweight adults, suggesting obesity and the lifetime of ill-health it can bring is ‘programmed’ in the womb. The trial involves 400 pregnant women in Liverpool, Coventry, Sheffield and Edinburgh.
They have started taking metformin, which has been safely used by diabetics for decades and is cleared for the treatment of diabetes in pregnancy. It costs just pence per tablet.