Increased First-Trimester Prescription Drug Use in U.S.

By 2008, roughly 50 percent of pregnant women report taking at least one medication

TUESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Use of prescription medications in the first trimester of pregnancy increased from 1976 to 2008 in the United States, according to a study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Allen A. Mitchell, M.D., from Boston University, and colleagues investigated the overall use of medication during pregnancy, especially the use of specific prescription drugs in the first trimester. The use of antenatal medication in 30,000 women included in the Slone Epidemiology Center Birth Defects Study (1976 to 2008), and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (1997 to 2003) was assessed.

The investigators found that, over the past three decades, the use of prescription medication in the first trimester increased by 60 percent, while the use of four or more medications more than tripled. Nearly 50 percent of the women were found taking at least one medication by 2008, while the use of some specific medications increased or decreased. The use of prescription medication varied by state, increased with maternal age and education, and was highest among non-Hispanic whites.

"These data reflect the widespread and growing use of medications by pregnant women and reinforce the need to study their respective fetal risks and safety," the authors write.

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