Widespread use of medications among pregnant women

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There is widespread and increasing medication use among pregnant women, revealed by researchers from Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Harvard School of Public Health,

This study also found that medication use varied by socioeconomic status, maternal age, race/ethnicity and state of residence.

Although a number of antenatal medication exposures are known to cause birth defects, there is insufficient information on the risks and safety for the vast majority of medications, whether they are obtained by prescription or over-the-counter (OTC).

The findings came from data collected by the Slone Epidemiology Center’s Birth Defects Study (1976-2008) and the CDC’s National Birth Defects Prevention Study (1997-2003), which together interviewed more than 30,000 women about their medication use during pregnancy.

The following is an outline of the study’s findings:

During the first trimester of pregnancy
70-80 percent of women reported taking at least one medication; and
By 2008, about 50 percent of women reported taking at least one prescription medication.

Over the last 30 years
First trimester use of prescription medications increased by more than 60 percent;
Use of 4 or more medications during the first trimester tripled; and
Antidepressant use during the first trimester increased dramatically.

In addition, this study reported that
Medication use increased with a woman’s age and education level;
Use was higher among non-Hispanic white women compared with women of other races or ethnicities that were studied; and
Use during pregnancy varied by state of residence.

“These data identify prescription medications that are currently most commonly used and therefore urgently require research on their risks and safety; they also reinforce the need for ongoing surveillance regarding medication use in pregnancy and its consequences,” said lead author Allen A. Mitchell, MD, director of BU’s Slone Epidemiology Center. “Not only is it critical to identify how many OTC and prescription medications are taken by pregnant women and what those specific medications are, but it is also important to know how use of medications changes over time,” he added.

Source: Boston University Medical Center, USA

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