Are Beta Blockers Safe to Use in Early Pregnancy?

by Karen Gaudette Brewer Contributing Editor

Beta blockers, the class of drugs that helps control heart rhythm, treat angina, and reduce high blood pressure, are safe to use in the first trimester of pregnancy and are not associated with a significant risk of birth defects, say findings from an international cohort study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School reviewed health records for 3.6 million pregnancies in five Nordic countries, as well as United States Medicaid pregnancy records from 2000-2010. They found similar outcomes across both populations of newborns: just 12.6 congenital malformations per 1,000 babies exposed to beta blockers early in pregnancy. Nationwide, birth defects affect one in every 33 babies born each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ultimately, researchers declared, fetal well-being is tied to maternal well-being: Treating mom’s health challenges promotes healthier pregnancies and births overall.

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine

Karen Gaudette Brewer
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Karen Gaudette Brewer

Karen Gaudette Brewer is an author and longtime journalist with an extensive background in public policy, government, food, and wellness. She's the Executive Editor emeritus of HealthCentral following staff roles at, The Seattle Times, and The Associated Press. She's honored to help illuminate the daily experiences of those who live with invisible illnesses to increase understanding and ease stigma.