Angiotensin II receptor antagonist treatment during pregnancy

Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2005 Feb;73(2):123-30. doi: 10.1002/bdra.20102.


Angiotensin II (A-II) is the main effector of the renin-angiotensin system. A-II functions by binding its type 1 (AT1) receptors to cause vasoconstriction and retention of sodium and fluid. Several AT1 receptor antagonists-a group of drugs collectively called "sartans"-have been marketed during the past few years for treatment of hypertension and heart failure. At least 15 case reports describe oligohydramnios, fetal growth retardation, pulmonary hypoplasia, limb contractures, and calvarial hypoplasia in various combinations in association with maternal losartan, candesartan, valsartan, or telmisartan treatment during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Stillbirth or neonatal death is frequent in these reports, and surviving infants may exhibit renal damage. The fetal abnormalities, which are strikingly similar to those produced by maternal treatment with angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, are probably related to extreme sensitivity of the fetus to the hypotensive action of these drugs. Very little information is available regarding the outcome of human pregnancies in which the mother was treated with an AT1 receptor antagonist during the first trimester, but animal studies have not demonstrated teratogenic effects after maternal treatment with large doses of AT1 receptor antagonists during organogenesis. We conclude that pharmacological suppression of the fetal renin-angiotensin system through ACE inhibition or AT1 receptor blockade seems to disrupt fetal vascular perfusion and renal function. We recommend that maternal treatment with AT1 receptor antagonists be avoided during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy and that women who become pregnant while taking one of these medications be changed to an antihypertensive drug of a different class as soon as the pregnancy is recognized.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin II / metabolism
  • Angiotensin II Type 1 Receptor Blockers / administration & dosage
  • Angiotensin II Type 1 Receptor Blockers / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Fetal Diseases / pathology
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / metabolism
  • Pregnancy, Animal
  • Receptor, Angiotensin, Type 1* / metabolism


  • Angiotensin II Type 1 Receptor Blockers
  • Receptor, Angiotensin, Type 1
  • Angiotensin II