Perception of risk regarding the use of medications and other exposures during pregnancy

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2010 Feb;66(2):207-14. doi: 10.1007/s00228-009-0744-2. Epub 2009 Oct 20.


Background: Perception of risk may impact a woman's decision to take a needed drug during pregnancy. There is a paucity of research on this topic in the literature.

Objectives: (1) To evaluate the perception of risk of 17 commonly used drugs and other substances by pregnant women. (2) To investigate which sources of information regarding exposures during pregnancy were most commonly used by women.

Methods: A questionnaire was developed through the University of Oslo's website for Internet surveys and posted on four Web pages used by pregnant women and mothers, from mid-September 2008 through October 2008. The inclusion criteria included women who were (1) pregnant or 2) a mother of a child less than 5 years old.

Results: A total of 1,793 eligible women completed the questionnaire. Most women overestimated the teratogenic risk associated with all the drugs during pregnancy. Characteristics of the women that were associated with a high perception of risk were primiparity, higher age, higher education, and choosing not to use a drug during pregnancy. More than 80% of the women had used drugs during pregnancy, mostly paracetamol, penicillins and reflux medications. The physician, the product information leaflet and the pharmacist were the three most frequently used sources of information.

Conclusion: Women overestimate the risk of drug use and other exposures during pregnancy. Therefore, it is important for health care providers to use evidence-based information, to reduce unnecessary anxiety, and to ensure safe and appropriate treatment during pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / psychology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions* / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Life Style
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / chemically induced
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / psychology
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult