Zidovudine use in pregnancy and congenital malformations

AIDS. 2017 Jul 31;31(12):1733-1743. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001549.


Objective: There is inconsistent evidence that zidovudine use during pregnancy increases overall, cardiac, and male genital malformations.

Design: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of zidovudine use and malformations and, using Bayesian methods, combined it with data from a cohort study of mother-infant pairs in the nationwide Medicaid Analytic eXtract (MAX).

Methods: Using MAX data (2000-2010), we identified pregnant women with HIV treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART). Women with at least one zidovudine dispensing during the first trimester were compared to women receiving ART without zidovudine in the first trimester. Malformation outcomes were defined using diagnosis/procedure codes. To adjust for confounding, we performed 1 : 1 propensity score matching. Bayesian methods require specification of a prior, which we developed in the meta-analysis. Logistic regression models combined MAX data with the prior, estimating odds ratios (ORs) and 95% credible intervals.

Results: Fourteen articles contributed information on overall malformations, seven on cardiac malformations, and five on male genital malformations. In MAX, matching led to a sample of 735 women each in the zidovudine and comparator groups. When comparing first trimester zidovudine use to other ART, the Bayesian procedure yielded OR estimates slightly above the null for overall [OR = 1.11, 95% credible interval (0.80-1.55)] and cardiac [OR = 1.30 (0.63-2.71)] malformations. There were no zidovudine-exposed cases of male genital malformations in MAX, but the meta-analysis yielded elevated OR estimates [OR = 2.57 (1.26-5.24)].

Conclusion: For most malformations, first-trimester zidovudine was not associated with increased risk. The potential increase in male genital malformations was small in absolute terms, and should be evaluated further.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / chemically induced*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / drug therapy
  • Young Adult
  • Zidovudine / adverse effects*
  • Zidovudine / therapeutic use


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Zidovudine