‘Don’t leave pregnant women out of medical studies’

September 26th, 2008 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 26 (IANS) Scientists are increasingly questioning why pregnant women are being left out of important research that could positively impact maternal and foetal health. The absence of research on how medications work in pregnant women have left doctors guessing about how to safely and effectively treat patients through pregnancy.

“Only in the last two decades did people recognise that women were being excluded not just from the risks, but from the benefits of research - primarily because of their potential to become pregnant,” said Anne Drapkin Lyerly, gynaecologist-medical ethicist at Duke University Medical Centre and a co-author of a new study on the subject that will appear online and then in the November edition of the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics.

More than four million women give birth in the US each year, and many face medical conditions during pregnancies that require clinical treatment. In fact, Lyerly said chronic diseases occurring during pregnancy are common: chronic hypertension and diabetes complicate nearly four percent of pregnancies each year, according to a statement by the Duke University Medical Centre.

However, the authors said the “delicate condition” continues to be grounds for near-automatic exclusion from research, despite the need for more effective treatment for women during pregnancy.

An estimated half a million pregnant women experience psychiatric illness, cancers, autoimmune diseases and other conditions that require treatment.

“Our best predictions when it comes to dosing medications can be disastrously wrong,” said Lyerly. “Without adequate research on how drugs are metabolised during pregnancy, how they are absorbed, distributed in and excreted by the body, whether they cross the placenta or affect the foetus, we have little to no evidence on how to optimise the health of pregnant women or the foetuses they carry.”

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