Pulmonary hypertension in pregnancy: treatment with pulmonary vasodilators

Obstet Gynecol. 1999 Apr;93(4):494-8. doi: 10.1016/s0029-7844(98)00524-9.


Objective: To describe the clinical course of pregnancies complicated by pulmonary hypertension and treated with the pulmonary vasodilators nifedipine and prostacyclin.

Methods: Four pregnant women with pulmonary hypertension were treated with pulmonary vasodilators. Therapy with oral nifedipine and intravenous prostacyclin was guided by right pulmonary artery catheterization and Doppler measurements of cardiac output.

Results: Three of four women responded to vasodilator therapy and successfully completed their pregnancies. Two who conceived at least 1 year after successful treatment and normalized right ventricle function carried three uncomplicated pregnancies. The woman who did not respond died. Delay in diagnosis contributed to her outcome. Noninvasive measurement of cardiac output helped diagnosis of right ventricular failure and offered reassurance in women who remained compensated. Postpartum decompensation in one woman was characterized by a negative Starling response as central venous pressure increased from 4 to 11 mmHg. She responded positively to diuresis.

Conclusion: Early diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension is critical. Volume overload postpartum might significantly contribute to decompensation. We recommend a year of successful therapy after a response to vasodilator therapy and near-normal right ventricular function before pregnancy is considered. In complicated pregnancies, women must balance the best estimate of risk with the value they put on pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Epoprostenol / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / drug therapy*
  • Nifedipine / therapeutic use*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / drug therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Epoprostenol
  • Nifedipine