Researchers from the University of British Columbia are looking at Viagra as a possible treatment for a rare condition among pregnant women.

Early intrauterine growth restriction prevents a baby from developing properly in the womb. The problem can come up when the placenta isn't supplying enough nutrients to the fetus.

In those cases, the baby's growth slows down. If severe, the condition can lead to premature delivery or stillbirth.

Scientists are investigating if Viagra could treat the illness by improving blood flow around the body, which would boost the flow of nutrients to the fetus. 

If successful, the therapy could increase the likelihood of a woman with the condition carrying her baby to full-term.

Pregnant woman

Early IUGR, if severe, can lead to premature delivery or stillbirth. (Pixabay)

Dr. Kenneth Lim, who often works with high-risk pregnancies at B.C. Women's Hospital, said smaller studies focused on the therapy have already shown "promising" results.

"It's an exciting trial," he said. "We don't have many treatments for this condition, so it has a lot of potential to do a lot of good."

Five other countries, including New Zealand and the United Kingdom, are also conducting similar trials in partnership with the Canadian work. 

"It's actually one of these new, global, co-operative type programs," Lim said. "At the end, we'll put all the data together."

Health Canada approved UBC's trial earlier this month. Researchers are currently looking to recruit trial participants from across the country.