Pregnant Women and Medical Research

When it comes to pregnant women, people tend to err on the side of caution -- but is that always best, 100 percent of the time? A new paper on medical ethics suggests that pregnant women -- long excluded from clinical research trials -- may have been missing out on important research that could benefit them and the fetuses they are carrying.


Bioethicists at Duke University Medical Center, Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities are examining why pregnant women have been excluded from medical research and what the implications have been.

"Only in the last two decades did people recognize that women were being excluded not just from the risks, but from the benefits of research," says Anne Drapkin Lyerly, MD, an OB/GYN and medical ethicist at Duke.

According to the paper, more than four million women give birth in the United Sates each year, and many are dealing with chronic medical situations, such as hypertension and diabetes, that require treatment. About half a million pregnant women experience mental illness, cancer, autoimmune and other diseases that also require treatment. Without reliable information on how medications affect pregnant women, doctors are essentially left guessing about how to treat them.

What do you think? Should pregnant women be included in research? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Do you, or does anyone you know, have a condition that requires treatment even through pregnancy?

And if you have specific questions -- medical or otherwise -- that you'd like to connect with other moms on, check out the Pregnancy Questions and Concerns group. Recent posts have been on whether or not this is really labor, whether or not it's safe to color your hair, and more.

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