Statins and pregnancy: between supposed risks and theoretical benefits

Drugs. 2012 Apr 16;72(6):773-88. doi: 10.2165/11632010-000000000-00000.


Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of mortality in industrialized countries. Treatment with statins is effective in primary prevention in patients at high cardiovascular risk. Statins are inhibitors of hydroxymethylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase and are classed as lipid-lowering drugs. In 2010, atorvastatin was the biggest-selling drug in the world ($US10.73 billion). Increases in the average age of pregnant women and in the prevalence of morbid obesity have inevitably led to exposure to statins in certain women during the first trimester of pregnancy. The teratogenic risk attendant upon use of statins is unclear because the available data are contradictory, but statins remain contraindicated in pregnant women. The benefits of statins in prevention of cardiovascular risk may not be solely due to their cholesterol-lowering effects: the so-called pleiotropic effects of vascular protection lead some experts to posit a potential benefit in the management of preeclampsia. In this review we evaluate the theoretical benefits and supposed risks of statins in pregnant women. After a brief overview of the pharmacodynamic properties of statins, we address the question of the teratogenic risk of statins, and then detail the rationale for the therapeutic potential of statins in preeclampsia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors