Women's questions about medicines in pregnancy – An analysis of calls to an Australian national medicines call centre

Eva L. Pijpers, Sanne Kreijkamp-Kaspers*, Treasure M. McGuire, Laura Deckx, Wendy Brodribb, Mieke L. van Driel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: For many medicines, safe use during pregnancy is not established and adherence is often poor due to safety concerns. Therefore, it is important to identify consumers’ medicines information needs during pregnancy. 

Materials and methods: A retrospective, mixed methods analysis was conducted on eight years of pregnancy-related calls to an Australian national medicines call centre. The call profile of pregnancy and non-pregnancy-related questions were compared. Medicines involved in pregnancy calls were categorised by class (Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC)3 level), and Therapeutic Goods Administration pregnancy category. Questions in these calls were also themed by pregnancy stage. 

Results: We identified 4573 pregnancy-related and 118 547 non-pregnancy-related calls. The caller profile for pregnancy-related calls was female (93.7%), asking for herself (83.0%), and while 70.1% of questions involved one medicine, 9.6% involved three or more medicines. Pregnancy enquiries were prompted more often by conflicting information, inadequate information or desire for a second opinion. For 1166 calls, where the stage of pregnancy was available, most questions concerned safety. Medication classified as ‘safe’ during pregnancy accounted for 34% of these questions. After antidepressants, most calls were made about over-the-counter (OTC) medicines (paracetamol, dexchlorpheniramine, codeine). Safe treatment for everyday conditions was of increasing concern as the pregnancy progressed. 

Conclusion: Pregnant women are concerned about the safety of medication use in pregnancy and a significant proportion overestimate risk. Psychotropic medication and fertility are strong drivers to seek information during preconception. Everyday illnesses and self-medication with OTC medication are a common concern throughout pregnancy, even though many medicines are safe to use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-341
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


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