Women take big risks for themselves and their babies when they fail to take prescribed medications during pregnancy. (Photo: Colourbox)

Expectant mothers neglect their medications

One-third of all pregnant women with chronic disorders fail to take their medicines as prescribed by doctors.

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Do chronically ill women adhere to their medication regimens when pregnant? Researchers at the University of Oslo’s School of Pharmacy decided to find out.

They discovered that one-third of pregnant women who participated in their study refrained from taking the medications recommended and prescribed by their physicians.

The researchers discovered that health personnel need to be much more aware of a risk factor during pregnancies― low adherence to medication regimens.

“If a woman is being treated for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma or epilepsy, the consequences can be dire for both mother and the foetus if she fails to follow her doctor’s prescribed use of medications,” says Angela Lupatelli.

Angela Lupatelli is a researcher at the University of Oslo’s School of Pharmacy. (Photo: UiO)

Lupatelli is a researcher at the University of Oslo’s School of Pharmacy and a specialist in the use of medications during pregnancies.

A wish for control

Doctors and pharmacists haven’t really known whether pregnant women with chronic diseases were taking their prescribed medications. The goal of the multinational study was to shed some light on this key issue.

The researchers behind the study were surprised by how many expectant mothers were ignoring solid medical advice. They point to two explanations for the resistance. 

“One possibility is that these women are strongly concerned about having as much control of illness as possible during their pregnancy,” says Lupatelli. 

“Another possible reason is that the women are so terrified of damage to the foetus that they refrain from taking vital medicines.”

Open to herbal medicines

The results show a strong link to the women’s overall attitudes towards medications. Those who were generally more positive about herbal or natural medicines and sceptical of tested and regulated pharmaceutical products were less likely to follow the advice of doctors.

Women who had given birth previously were also less likely to follow medical advice.

Lupatelli says that health personnel should be more aware of this reluctance to use necessary prescribed medications and should discuss the issue with chronically ill women who get pregnant.

Rheumatism and epilepsy

Low adherence to taking prescription medications was most prevalent among women with rheumatic disorders (56 percent), epilepsy (40 percent), chronic bowel disorders (36 percent) and cardiovascular disease (33 percent).

The women who took medications for diabetes were the most likely to heed doctors’ orders, with 17 percent in the low adherence category.

“But it’s especially important for diabetic women to use their prescribed medications, so 17 percent is a still a high percentage. Poorly regulated diabetes can have serious consequences for the child,” says Lupatelli.

Translated by: Glenn Ostling

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