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Drug can reduce C-sections

The need for Caesarean sections can be safely reduced, if labor is not progressing rapidly enough, by larger-than-normal doses of a medication that induces contractions, according to new research.

The reliance on C-sections is considered a major problem in the United States, where the procedure has multiplied fivefold to 25 percent of all births in the past two decades with no obvious improvement in the health of babies or their mothers.

In a study involving 705 women, doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago found that if they quickly gave the drug oxytocin to first-time mothers when the cervix was not dilating at least 1 centimeter per hour, the Caesarean section rate dropped from 14.1 to 10.5 percent.

Earlier studies had suggested that high doses of the drug might produce brain and nervous system damage in the fetus, but researchers said they found no increase in complications.