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New mums enlisted to trial melatonin to stem induced labours

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First-time mothers will be offered oral melatonin tablets as part of a new Curtin-led clinical trial that is seeking to reduce the growing rates of induced labours that are putting mothers and babies at risk.

The new research has been awarded funding in the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Medical Research Future Fund 2022 Clinician Researchers: Nurses Midwives and Allied Health round, announced today.

The trial is a collaboration between Curtin University, the Women and Newborn Health Services, The University of Western Australia, the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash University and King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women.

Lead researcher Dr Zoe Bradfield, from the Curtin School of Nursing, said the new trial sought to address “an imminent crisis in Australian maternity care”.

“The rate of first-time mothers having their labour induced is increasing, with induced labour associated with harm for the mother and the baby, as well as contributing to rising health costs,” Dr Bradfield said.

“Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the body that can help the start of childbirth. Our study will determine whether giving pregnant women oral melatonin from 39 weeks’ gestation may help with starting labour normally in a simple and cost-effective way to decrease induced labours.”

Dr Bradfield said the rates of induced labours among first-time mothers had increased by 43 per cent over the past decade, from 32 to 47 per cent of all births in Australia.

“The evidence indicates that the induction of labour in the absence of a medical need or complication may actually increase the risk of harm to the mother and baby,” Dr Bradfield said.

“As a result, there is growing concern about the rapid rise in the induction of labour before 41 weeks’ gestation for women without medical complications. Obstetric intervention in late pregnancy continues to rise without a demonstrated reduction in stillbirth and with a clear increase in early-term birth at 37 to 38 weeks, which is known to be harmful to the child’s neurodevelopment.”

The four-year, double-blind clinical trial run through the Women and Newborn Health Services at King Edward Memorial Hospital and Osborne Park Hospital will determine if oral tablets of melatonin 3mg once daily from 39 weeks’ gestation reduces the rate of induced labours.

Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran congratulated the team on being awarded NHMRC funding to undertake the clinical trial.

“This trial is led by a team of expert clinician-scientist midwives and nurses in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team, and its findings will have important implications for first-time mothers,” Professor Moran said.

For more information about the NHMRC’s MRFF 2022 Clinician Researchers: Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health grants, visit here.

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