A to X: the problem of categorisation of drugs in pregnancy — an Australian perspective

Debra S Kennedy
Med J Aust 2011; 195 (10): . || doi: 10.5694/mja11.11119
Published online: 21 November 2011

Pregnant women and their health care providers deserve better drug labelling, so that risks and benefits of medications can be weighed up rationally

Given that over 80% of women use at least one prescribed or over-the-counter medication (typically one to three) at some time during their pregnancy, most medical practitioners who treat women of reproductive age can expect frequent questions about the use of medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding.1 In addition, as the average age of women having babies increases, their likelihood of having medical disorders that complicate pregnancy (such as hypertension) or chronic conditions also increases.

  • 1 MotherSafe, Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 School of Women’s and Children’s Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

  • 1. Henry A, Crowther C. Patterns of medication use during and prior to pregnancy: the MAP study. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol 2000; 40: 165-172.
  • 2. Sawicki E, Stewart K, Wong S, et al. Medication use for chronic health conditions by pregnant women attending an Australian maternity hospital. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol 2011; 51: 333-338.
  • 3. MacLennan AH, Myers SP, Taylor AW. The continuing use of complementary and alternative medicine in South Australia: costs and beliefs in 2004. Med J Aust 2006; 184: 27-31. <MJA full text>
  • 4. Skouteris H, Wertheim EH, Rallis S, et al. Use of complementary and alternative medicines by a sample of Australian women during pregnancy. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol 2008; 48: 384-390.
  • 5. Medicines in Pregnancy Working Party, Australian Drug Evaluation Committee. Prescribing medicines in pregnancy: an Australian categorisation of risk of drug use in pregnancy. 4th ed. Canberra: Therapeutics Goods Administration, 1999.
  • 6. Therapeutics Goods Administration. Prescribing medicines in pregnancy database. (accessed Oct 2011).
  • 7. Kennedy D, Taylor T, Cupitt D, et al. Practical knowledge about drugs in pregnancy and breastfeeding: a survey of pharmacists and general practitioners in NSW [abstract]. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol 2011; 91: 410-412.
  • 8. Jones KL, Johnson DL, Van Maarseveen ND, et al. Salmeterol use and pregnancy outcome: a prospective multi-center study [abstract]. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2002; 109: S156.
  • 9. Rey E, Boulet LP. Asthma in pregnancy. BMJ 2007; 334: 582-585.
  • 10. Lim J, Sullivan E, Kennedy D. MotherSafe: review of three years of counselling by an Australian teratology information service. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol 2009; 49: 168-172.
  • 11. Doering PL, Boothby LA, Cheok M. Review of pregnancy labeling of prescription drugs: is the current system adequate to inform of risks? Am J Obstet Gynecol 2002; 187: 333-339.
  • 12. Kweder SL. Drugs and biologics in pregnancy and breastfeeding: FDA in the 21st century. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol 2008; 82: 605-609.


remove_circle_outline Delete Author
add_circle_outline Add Author

Do you have any competing interests to declare? *

I/we agree to assign copyright to the Medical Journal of Australia and agree to the Conditions of publication *
I/we agree to the Terms of use of the Medical Journal of Australia *
Email me when people comment on this article

Online responses are no longer available. Please refer to our instructions for authors page for more information.