Byline: EDDIE BARNES
EXPECTANT mothers could soon be spared the agony of prolonged childbirth by a pioneering new drug aimed at cutting the length of labour to just a few hours.
Clinical tests into the effectiveness of the drug are now well under way and the treatment is expected to be available in maternity wards within five years.
More than 40 women in the early stages of pregnancy will be offered the treatment next year, which, if successful, could dramatically reduce the pain women who undergo lengthy labours presently experience.
The unnamed drug works by speeding up the body's natural chemistry, forcing the muscles in the womb to relax once birthing has begun.
First-time mothers, who often suffer the most intense labour pains, will be among those who benefit most from the new treatment, along with the thousands of women who have to be painfully induced by doctors in order to give birth.
Yesterday, a spokesman for Ardana Bioscience, which is developing the drug with the Medical Research Council's Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in Edinburgh, said the potential benefits of the drug were immense.
'We are preparing to start clinical trials next year and hope to have the drug on the market within five years. We hope to get the drug working at an optimum that will reduce childbirth to around three hours,' she said.
Trials on the drug will be organised by the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary next year to study whether it is effective.
It works by breaking down protein in the womb, which then allows it to relax during labour.
The pain of childbirth is often caused because the cervix at the neck of the womb has not become sufficiently relaxed and must …