Drug management of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy

S M Khedun, J Moodley, T Naicker, B Maharaj
Pharmacology & Therapeutics 1997, 74 (2): 221-58
Drugs used in the acute and long-term management of hypertension in pregnancy and the preeclampsia-eclampsia syndrome have been reviewed and their therapeutic effects and maternal and fetal adverse effects have been considered. The review also focuses on recent developments in the areas of prevention and management of pre-eclampsia-eclampsia syndrome. Although a number of new drugs have emerged, as potentially useful in the management of hypertension in pregnancy and pre-eclampsia-eclampsia syndrome, some remain at the cornerstone of therapy; for example, methyldopa for long-term treatment of chronic hypertension, hydralazine or nifedipine for rapid reduction of severely elevated blood pressure, and magnesium sulphate for eclampsia. Some of these agents, especially the calcium antagonists, show promise in that their use is associated with fewer side effects. Safety for the fetus, however, has not been adequately evaluated yet. Neither aspirin nor calcium supplements appear to improve the outcome in pregnancy. Currently, the dilemma whether to treat hypertension in pregnancy and pre-eclampsia-eclampsia syndrome with old, established, cost-effective drugs or the promising newer drugs provides an interesting academic challenge.

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