March 17, 2006

Decongestant use has no ill effects in pregnancy

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who take decongestants
during pregnancy don't appear to risk having poor outcomes or
to be putting their baby at risk for birth defects, a Swedish
team reports.

A runny nose during pregnancy -- so-called pregnancy
rhinitis -- "is a rather common complaint." Dr. Bengt A. J.
Kallen, of the University of Lund, and colleagues write in the
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. There has been
some concern that treating the problem with decongestants may
have a negative impact on fetal development.

To investigate, Kallen's group assessed outcomes in 2474
women who had used oral decongestants (mostly
phenylpropanolamine) during early pregnancy and 1771 women who
were given prescription oral decongestants later in pregnancy.

A total of 117 infants (4.7 percent) born after
first-trimester exposure to decongestants had a congenital
malformation. That compares with 121 babies expected to be born
with birth defects among the same number of women in the
general population, the researchers report.

Women who were given prescription decongestants later in
pregnancy actually had a decreased risk for preterm delivery of
32 percent, and a 47 percent decreased risk of having a low
birth weight infant.

Also, the number of infants who died around the time of
birth was 47 percent less among mothers prescribed
decongestants after the first prenatal visit.

The cause of pregnancy rhinitis is not known, but hormones
produced by the placenta are though to be involved. The
apparently protective effect of oral decongestants on pregnancy
outcomes may actually be a reflection of pregnancy rhinitis
being "a sign of a well-functioning placenta," Kallen and
colleagues suggest.

SOURCE: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology,
February 2006.