Newly released information from the journal Hypertension shows that an increasing number of pregnant women are using medication to control their blood pressure. But the use of these drugs could increase the rate of pregnancy-related injuries or birth defects, according to researchers.
Some women may certainly benefit from antihypertensive medications, but at the same time, doctors do not know how these medications could affect pregnant women and their babies. Are too many doctors taking unnecessary risks by prescribing drugs that could cause serious and harmful side effects or injuries?
Academic researchers conducted an analysis using Medicaid data that involved more than 1 million pregnant patients in the U.S. During their pregnancies, more than 4 percent of those women had used medication to control their hypertension. The number of pregnant women who reported taking the drugs grew to nearly 5 percent in 2007 from only 3.5 percent in 2000.
Although the increase in the use of these medications is consistent with the growing number of pregnant women who do suffer from gestational hypertension or chronic high blood pressure problems, medical researchers are concerned that the drugs could harm unborn babies.
Pregnant women are generally advised against taking certain medications unless it is absolutely necessary. This is because physicians are not entirely sure how certain medications affect babies. Researchers theorize that some of the study’s participants simply were not warned by their doctors that their blood pressure medications could be harmful to their unborn babies.
According to the data analysis, many of the women reportedly stopped using the medications before the final trimester of pregnancy, but about half continued into the later stages of their pregnancy.
The study’s authors acknowledge that the medical community is still uncertain about the best way to treat high blood pressure during pregnancy. Until more research is conducted, physicians could be opening themselves up to medical malpractice claims if they do not responsibly prescribe medications or properly monitor pregnant patients who are using medication.
Source: Forbes, “Antihypertensive Use Among Pregnant Women on the Rise,” Larry Husten, Sep. 10, 2012
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