Expectant mothers could be given treatment for high cholesterol in a bid to reduce the number of emergency caesareans, experts have said.
A woman's ability to have normal contractions can be affected by high levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream and lead to a prolonged labour, according to a study by researchers at the University of Liverpool.
They suggested that giving statins in the last three months of pregnancy to women with high cholesterol could cut the chance of them needing an unplanned caesarean, and pointed out that obese woman are particularly at risk and are three-and-a-half times more likely to need a caesarean because of slow labour than women of a normal weight.
In a study of 4,000 pregnant women, the Liverpool researchers found that almost one in five overweight women had to have an emergency caesarean because the muscles in their uterus failed to contract properly. They suggest that obesity stops the uterus working sufficiently well to deliver the baby.
"We suspect one reason preventing sufficient levels of calcium entering the uterus muscles is the high level of cholesterol in an obese woman's bloodstream," said Professor Sue Wray, head of the university's Division of Physiology. "This could disrupt cell membranes and signalling pathways, including calcium entry."
"Do you people fact-check at all? Statins are contraindicated in pregnany because of birth defects!" - Angel Wolf, Medford, Oregon, USA
"A study in Holland found statins produced horrendous birth defects. Biochemists know you need a huge amount of cholesterol to make a healthy embryo. That is why eggs have loads of cholesterol in them. Just read up on why we make the stuff. It is an amazing substance." - Glyn Wainwright, Leeds UK