Are Pregnant Women Taking Unsafe Medicine?

There are few times that I become gravely concerned about the way medicine is practiced and this is one of them. A recent medical study in the Journal of Hypertension reported some startling facts: pregnant women are receiving blood pressure medication that might be harmful to their babies.

When physicians decide to specialize in obstetrics, we know exactly what we’re getting into. We have two patients, both mother and unborn baby and we don’t want either to die. Each year 4 million babies are born in the U.S. and between 6 to 8% of their mothers will have high blood pressure. Why are physicians and healthcare providers concerned about high blood pressure? Because if untreated, it can cause a stroke leading to death.

During pregnancy, a patient can have there are 3 types of high blood pressure: (1) chronic hypertension that occurs before 20 weeks, (2) gestational hypertension that occurs after 20 weeks but is not associated with protein in the urine and (3) pre-eclampsia that occurs after 20 weeks and is associated with protein in the urine. Pre-eclampsia, if untreated can lead to seizures (also known as eclampsia) and strokes. It is one of the most common reasons for death as a result of pregnancy. The treatment for pre-eclampsia is the delivery of a baby because the placenta is causing a problem. If the patient’s blood pressure is extremely high and life-threatening, medicine is also given to prevent the woman from having a stroke until she is delivered.

On the other hand, chronic hypertension is treated with medication during pregnancy to prevent strokes from occurring.  But what type of medicine? The FDA classifies medicines in 5 categories from “A” to “X” to describe how they will affect the unborn baby. Category A poses no harm to the baby and Category X should never be given because it has been proven to cause birth defects. The blood pressure medication Lisinopril is a category X medication. It should never, never be taken during pregnancy.

Pregnant moms please read those labels and ask questions before taking medication.  A healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mom who knows what to do.