Teratologic evaluation of 178 infants born to mothers who attempted suicide by drugs during pregnancy

Obstet Gynecol. 1997 Aug;90(2):195-201. doi: 10.1016/S0029-7844(97)00216-0.


Objective: To identify the teratogenic risk of large doses of various drugs taken by women in attempting suicide.

Methods: This population-based, prospective, epidemiologic study involved 559 women with pregnancy verified by a serum pregnancy test who were admitted to the toxicologic inpatient clinic in Budapest responsible for providing health services to chemically poisoned individuals from a population of 3 million. Each self-poisoned woman was matched for age and gestational age with a control selected from among participants in periconceptional care.

Results: Two of 559 self-poisoned pregnant women died. One hundred seventy-eight infants born to mothers who poisoned themselves during pregnancy either were examined personally or had appropriate medical data available. After excluding eight infants with fetal alcohol syndrome born to heavy-drinking mothers, the rate of congenital abnormalities in study infants (9.0%) did not significantly exceed the rate of control infants (6.1%). Thus, no teratogenic effect of drugs used for self-poisoning could be identified, even though large doses of drugs were used in 27 cases between the 3rd and 8th weeks of fetal development. This sample was not large enough to evaluate single drugs separately.

Conclusion: Drugs taken by women in attempting suicide do not seem to pose a risk for structural birth defects in the offspring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / etiology
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / chemically induced
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / epidemiology
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hungary / epidemiology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Poisoning / complications*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide, Attempted*