Antipsychotic drugs in pregnancy: a review of their maternal and fetal effects

Ther Adv Drug Saf. 2014 Apr;5(2):100-9. doi: 10.1177/2042098614522682.


Understanding the risks of antipsychotic medication use in pregnancy is becoming an important clinical concern given the evidence of their increasing rate of prescription in the general population for a range of disorders. Despite antipsychotics being amongst the earliest of psychotropic medications to be introduced, the evidence for their effects secondary to pregnancy exposure is extremely limited. While this review does not identify clear evidence for a risk of malformation, there is evidence for risks associated with pregnancy and neonatal outcomes. Studies identified found risks that included prematurity, low and high birth weight, and gestational diabetes. There have also been studies that suggest neonatal withdrawal and abnormal muscles movements. The longer term neurodevelopmental outcomes for children exposed in utero remain unclear with only four studies identified: two of first generation antipsychotics and two of second generation antipsychotics. When considering the risk of these medications in pregnancy, the risk of untreated maternal illness (particularly schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) on both maternal and child outcomes is relevant. Future research needs to focus on prospective, longitudinal studies with adequate measures of key confounding variables including maternal mental illness, other exposures (such as smoking, alcohol and illicit drug use) and adequate length of follow up where accurate child developmental measures are obtained.

Keywords: antipsychotics; bipolar disorder; pregnancy; schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Review