Objective: To assess the current situation in pregnancy drug prescription across various cultural and health care settings.
Method: An international study was set up to collect by questionnaire survey comparable data. A total of 14,778 women giving birth in 148 hospitals from 22 countries were enrolled.
Result: Antenatally, 14% of women received no drugs, while drug takers received an average of 2.9 prescriptions. There were marked intercountry variations in prescribing habits. The majority of prescriptions referred to iron and vitamins. Anti-infectives were the second most widely taken drugs. Anti-inflammatory drugs were taken by 17% of women, these in 42% of cases being self-administered. During the intrapartum period 79% of the women received an average of 3.3 drugs. Besides analgesics/anesthetics (31.8%), the most commonly prescribed drugs were oxytocin (17.5%), ergot derivatives (8.4%) and anti-infectives (5.3%). At the time of interview 91% of women were planning to breastfeed. Methylergometrin led the list of most frequently used drugs (36%) given to breastfeeding women, although the use of ergot derivatives in the puerperium showed wide intercountry variations.
Conclusion: The survey has confirmed that at present, some drugs are often more widely used in pregnancy than is justified by the knowledge available.