MEDICATIONS USED BY PREGNANT WOMEN: ANY SAFETY CONCERNS?
Objective: The use of medications during pregnancy may impose a potential risk to the fetus. Therefore, this study was conducted to determine the prevalence and safety of medications used by pregnant women.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted on pregnant women who attended the antenatal clinic of a major teaching hospital in Malaysia, from January to April 2013. Data was collected via face-to-face interviews using a structured questionnaire.
Results: Of the 500 respondents in this study, 62% (95% confidence interval, CI: 57.7%, 66.3%) used at least one medication during their pregnancy and 30.8% (95% CI: 26.8%, 34.8%) took the medications during the first trimester. The classes of medications commonly used were analgesics (26.8%), followed by cough and cold medications (18.6%) and medications for gastrointestinal disorders (11.8%). Among the 697 medications used by the respondents during pregnancy, most of them were relatively safe, with approximately 50% being classified under the Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA, US)-assigned pregnancy category B. However, seven potentially teratogenic medications were identified, including four antiepileptic drugs and an antimigraine medication which contained ergotamine.
Conclusion: This study found that a high proportion of pregnant woman consumed at least one medication during their pregnancy. The use of antimigraine medications containing ergotamine in pregnant women is of major concern as this medication could be obtained without a prescription in some countries, including in Malaysia. Therefore, it is essential for health care professionals to educate and counsel pregnant women on the safety of medications used.
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