Review of Cardiovascular Drugs in Pregnancy

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2019 May;28(5):686-697. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2018.7145. Epub 2018 Nov 8.


Cardiovascular disease is now the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States. Increasing maternal mortality in the United States underscores the importance of proper cardiovascular management. Significant physiological changes during pregnancy affect the heart's ability to respond to pathological processes such as hypertension and heart failure. These physiological changes further affect the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of cardiac medications. During pregnancy, these changes can significantly alter medication efficacy and metabolism. This article systematically reviews the literature on safety, efficacy, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of cardiovascular drugs used for hypertension and heart failure during pregnancy and lactation. The 2017 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association hypertension guidelines recommend transitioning pregnant patients to methyldopa, nifedipine, or labetalol. Heart failure medications, including beta-blockers, furosemide, and digoxin, are relatively safe and can be used effectively. Medications that block the renin angiotensin-aldosterone system have been shown to be beneficial in the general population; however, they are teratogenic and, therefore, contraindicated in pregnancy. Cardiovascular medications can also enter breast milk and, therefore, care must be taken when selecting drugs during the lactation period. A summary of the safety of drugs during pregnancy and lactation from an online resource, LactMed by the National Library of Medicine's TOXNET database, is included. High-risk pregnant patients with cardiovascular disease require a multispecialty team of doctors, including health care providers from obstetrics and gynecology, maternal fetal medicine, internal medicine, cardiovascular disease specialists, and specialized pharmacology expertise.

Keywords: cardiovascular; heart failure; hypertension; medications; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • Cardiovascular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / epidemiology
  • United States


  • Cardiovascular Agents