Making Decisions About Medication Use During Pregnancy: Implications for Communication Strategies

Matern Child Health J. 2018 Jan;22(1):92-100. doi: 10.1007/s10995-017-2358-0.


Objective To explore women's perceptions of the risks and benefits associated with medication use during pregnancy and to better understand how women make decisions related to medication use in pregnancy. Methods We conducted online focus groups with 48 women who used medication during pregnancy or while planning a pregnancy, and 12 in-depth follow-up interviews with a subset of these women. Results We found that women were aware of general risks associated with medication use but were often unable to articulate specific negative outcomes. Women were concerned most about medications' impact on fetal development but were also concerned about how either continuing or discontinuing medication during pregnancy could affect their own health. Women indicated that if the risk of a given medication were unknown, they would not take that medication during pregnancy. Conclusion This formative research found that women face difficult decisions about medication use during pregnancy and need specific information to help them make decisions. Enhanced communication between patients and their providers regarding medication use would help address this need. We suggest that public health practitioners develop messages to (1) encourage, remind, and prompt women to proactively talk with their healthcare providers about the risks of taking, not taking, stopping, or altering the dosage of a medication while trying to become pregnant and/or while pregnant; and (2) encourage all women of childbearing age to ask their healthcare providers about medication use.

Keywords: Chronic disease; Medication; Preconception health; Pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Communication*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Nonprescription Drugs / administration & dosage
  • Perception
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Prescription Drugs / administration & dosage
  • Qualitative Research
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Prescription Drugs