Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can be dangerous for both mother and baby. Unfortunately, very little is known about the drugs used to treat hypertension is pregnant women. This may mean that there are unknown side effects. It is also possible that those unknown side effects could present more of a health risk than finding an alternative method for treating blood pressure in pregnant women.
According to a recent study, about 6 to 8 percent of women have hypertension, and about 5 percent of all pregnant women take medication to treat hypertension. Brian T. Bateman, M.D., Assistant Professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. and lead author on a study that examined the growing trend of prescribing hypertension medications to pregnant women expresses his concern.
“While we know high blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs in about 6 to 8 percent of all pregnancies, we know little about how women and their doctors treat the condition,” Bateman said.
Bateman and his colleagues studied a database that contained information on more than one million Medicaid patients. About 4.4 percent (48,453) of those patients were pregnant women who had filled a prescription for high blood pressure medication sometime during their pregnancy.
According to the data compiled by Bateman and his colleagues, antihypertensive drug use has increased from 3.5 percent in 2000 to 4.9 percent in 2006. What’s more, ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers were among the antihypertensive drugs prescribed to pregnant women. Previous studies have shown these drugs have serious side effects when used in pregnant women. Yet, there is so little information available about safe alternative treatment options for pregnant women with high blood pressure.
“We know from reports that a number of harmful effects can occur from using ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, especially during the second and third trimester. These drugs can cause poor growth, kidney problems, and even death of the newborn,” Bateman stated. “If women are taking one of these blood pressure medications and they become pregnant or plan to do so, they and their doctors should discuss treatment choices during pregnancy.”
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