More pregnant women taking high blood pressure drugs, yet safety unclear

September 10, 2012, American Heart Association

Nearly 5 percent of pregnant women are prescribed drugs to treat high blood pressure, including some drugs that aren't considered safe for mothers or their babies, according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension.

Use of high blood pressure drugs during pregnancy is becoming increasingly common, said Brian T. Bateman, M.D., lead author and Assistant Professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass.

"While we know high blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs in about 6 percent to 8 percent of all pregnancies, we know little about how women and their doctors treat the condition," he said.

Researchers studied a database of more than 1 million , of whom 48,453 (4.4 percent) filled prescriptions for high during their pregnancies.

They found:

  • Antihypertensive drug use increased from 3.5 percent to 4.9 percent between 2000 and 2006.
  • Antihypertensive drug users were older than non-users, more likely to have diabetes or kidney disease, and more likely to be Caucasian or African-American than Hispanic or Asian.
  • Nearly 2 percent of pregnant women filled prescriptions for these drugs during the first trimester; 1.7 percent during the second trimester; and 3.2 percent during the third trimester.
  • The drugs prescribed included and angiotensin receptor blockers—both of which have been shown in studies to have harmful side effects during pregnancy.
Limited information is available about which are safest and most effective for treating during pregnancy, Bateman said. In general, methyldopa and labetalol are the recommended antihypertensives for use during pregnancy. More research on which antihypertensives to prescribe during pregnancy and how to use them safely is urgently needed, he said.

"We know from reports that a number of harmful effects can occur from using ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, especially during the second and third trimester," Bateman said. "These drugs can cause poor growth, kidney problems and even death of the newborn. If women are taking one of these blood pressure medications and they become pregnant or plan to do so, they and their doctors should discuss treatment choices during pregnancy."

Explore further: High blood pressure in early pregnancy raises risk of birth defects, irrespective of medication

Related Stories

High blood pressure in early pregnancy raises risk of birth defects, irrespective of medication

October 18, 2011
Women with high blood pressure (hypertension) in the early stages of pregnancy are more likely to have babies with birth defects, irrespective of commonly prescribed medicines for their condition, finds new research published ...

High blood pressure and pregnancy: Short- and long-term consequences

November 11, 2011
Two studies from the Mayo Clinic presented during the American Society of Nephrology's Annual Kidney Week provide new information related to high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Rate of stroke increasing among women during, soon after pregnancy

July 29, 2011
The stroke rate for pregnant women and those who recently gave birth increased alarmingly over the past dozen years, according to research reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Similar blood pressure drugs could have different impacts on dialysis patients' heart health

December 8, 2011
Two seemingly similar blood pressure–lowering drugs have different effects on the heart health of dialysis patients, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society Nephrology ...

Majority of B.C. women take prescription drugs during pregnancy: study

December 15, 2011
Almost two-thirds of women in British Columbia filled at least one prescription at some point in their pregnancy, including drugs with potential risks, according to a new study by University of British Columbia researchers.

Recommended for you

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.