One in 20 pregnant women are prescribed high blood pressure medicine, but some of those drugs aren't considered safe for expectant mothers or their babies, new research shows.
The study, published in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension, noted the use hypertension drugs pregnancy is becoming increasingly common, even though some may pose significant health risks.SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
"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," said lead researcher Dr. Brian T. Bateman, assistant professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School.
"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."
To reach their conclusions, researchers studied health records of more than 1 million Medicaid patients, of whom 48,453 (4.4 percent) filled prescriptions for high blood pressure drugs during their pregnancies.
Among their findings:
• High blood pressure 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 white or black 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. SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
Limited information is available about which blood pressure drugs are safest and most effective for during pregnancy, Bateman said. In general, methyldopa and labetalol are the recommended antihypertensives for use during pregnancy. More research on which drugs to prescribe during pregnancy is “urgently needed,” he said.
The study was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.