ACE inhibitors, drugs commonly used to treat high blood pressure, have been linked to birth defects if taken by the expectant mother during the first trimester of her pregnancy, according to a new study carried out by researchers at Vanderbilt University and Boston University.

You can read about this study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers gathered data from the medical records of 29,507 newborns. 209 of their mothers had taken ACE inhibitors during the first trimester of pregnancy. 18 of them were born with birth defects, of which 9 had heart defects. In other words:

Of 209 newborns who had been exposed to ACE inhibitors during the first three months of their mothers’ pregnancy:

— 18 had birth defects, about 9% of total
— Of which 9 had heart defects, about 4.5% of total or 50% of those with birth defects

Expectant mothers taking ACE inhibitors during their first trimester were 2.7 times as likely to have a baby with a birth defect than mothers who did not take the drug during their first trimester.

In the USA alone, 149 million ACE inhibitor prescriptions are dispensed each year, in total – not just to pregnant mothers. ACE inhibitors have been prescribed to patients for over 25 years. They are the second most popular prescription drugs in the developed world today.

The researchers say that any woman who is pregnant, or planning to start a family should avoid taking ACE inhibitors. It is vital that all women of child-bearing age know about this, as well as their health care providers, so that alternative medications to treat hypertension can be identified.

Here is a list of some commonly used ACE inhibitors:

— captopril (Capoten)
— benazepril (Lotensin)
— enalapril (Vasotec)
— lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
— fosinopril (Monopril)
— ramipril (Altace)
— perindopril (Aceon)
— quinapril (Accupril)
— moexipril (Univasc)
— trandolapril (Mavik)

Trimester = Three month period. A pregnancy is divided into three trimesters – the first trimester, the second trimester, the third trimester
High blood pressure = Hypertension

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today