New research suggests that by giving patients with heart failure the pregnancy hormone relaxin, symptoms such as breathlessness may be relieved, reports the Telegraph.
The hormone relaxin loosens tendons, boosts heart function and widens blood vessels in mums-to-be to help the body cope with the extra weight and blood required for their baby.
For the study, doctors in Brescia, Italy, treated 232 patients with relaxin or a dummy drug when they were admitted with symptoms of heart failure. They then followed them up at intervals during the next six months.
After the first five days, 50% of patients receiving relaxin showed improvement compared with just a third of those on the dummy drug.
The most effective dose is now being tested more widely, said Professor Marco Metra, from the Cardiology Department of the University of Brescia, who conducted the research.