(HealthDay News) -- Giving nitroglycerin to women in preterm labor helps prolong their pregnancy and improves the health of their babies, Canadian researchers report.
The boost in newborns' health was greatest in those who were born very prematurely (24 weeks to 28 weeks), the study said.
Premature delivery is the leading cause of death and disability of newborns worldwide. According to the researchers at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, this is the first study to identify a drug that stops preterm labor and also improves infant outcomes. They said nitroglycerin causes fewer side effects than other drugs.
Published in the January issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the five-year study included 153 women who were recruited at the time they went into preterm labor.
Caring for premature babies and their medical complications can be costly for families and societies. Based on their findings, the researchers said that "treatment with nitroglycerin may result in major cost savings and longer-term health benefits for these babies."
The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about research into preterm labor and premature birth.