Physiologic changes in pregnancy induce profound alterations to the pharmacokinetic properties of many medications. These changes affect distribution, absorption, metabolism, and excretion of drugs, and thus may impact their pharmacodynamic properties during pregnancy. Pregnant women undergo several adaptations in many organ systems. Some adaptations are secondary to hormonal changes in pregnancy, while others occur to support the gravid woman and her developing fetus. Some of the changes in maternal physiology during pregnancy include, for example, increased maternal fat and total body water, decreased plasma protein concentrations, especially albumin, increased maternal blood volume, cardiac output, and blood flow to the kidneys and uteroplacental unit, and decreased blood pressure. The maternal blood volume expansion occurs at a larger proportion than the increase in red blood cell mass, which results in physiologic anemia and hemodilution. Other physiologic changes include increased tidal volume, partially compensated respiratory alkalosis, delayed gastric emptying and gastrointestinal motility, and altered activity of hepatic drug metabolizing enzymes. Understating these changes and their profound impact on the pharmacokinetic properties of drugs in pregnancy is essential to optimize maternal and fetal health.
Keywords: fetus; pharmacokinetics; pharmacology; physiology; pregnancy.