“Nearly 5 percent of pregnant women are prescribed drugs to treat high blood pressure, including some drugs that aren’t considered even safe for them or their babies”, 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.

Brian Bateman and colleagues analyzed Medicaid data from more than 1.1 million pregnant women. Overall, 4.4% of the women received antihypertensive medications at some point during their pregnancy. From 2000 to 2007 the use of antihypertensive drugs increased from 3.5% to 4.9%. This increase, according to the authors, is “consistent with the rising rates of chronic hypertension and gestational hypertension… which in turn may reflect rising rates of obesity and advanced maternal age in US parturients.”

Research Summary:

  • 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 ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers — both of which have been shown in studies to have harmful side effects during pregnancy.