London - Women are dying because they stop taking medication during pregnancy, a major audit has found.
Scares over the impact of drugs on unborn babies mean many mothers-to-be stop taking vital treatments as soon as they become pregnant.
The national maternity audit, compiled by researchers at Oxford University, examined 124 women who died and 46 who fell ill in the UK and Ireland between 2013 and 2015. It raised particular concerns about women with epilepsy who had uncontrolled seizures when they stopped taking their drugs and women with mental health problems who decided to stop medication.
Scientists have previously warned that most pregnant women needlessly avoid common medicines for fear of harming their unborn baby. Thousands believe even mild treatments – such as antibiotics or paracetamol – could be harmful.
But women are also avoiding medication for life-threatening conditions, the report reveals, The team identified nine epileptic women who died suddenly during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. All either decided to stop taking the drugs or were told to by their GP.
Studies have raised concerns about the impact of epilepsy drugs on unborn children. But experts say the risk of seizures can be managed with expert help.
Professor Marian Knight, who led the research, said: ‘I cannot over-emphasise the importance of seeking specialist advice before women stop or change their medicines in early pregnancy.’