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Therapy insight: drugs for gastrointestinal disorders in pregnant women.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


The management and treatment of gastrointestinal ailments in pregnant women requires special attention and expertise, since the safety of the mother, fetus and neonate remains the primary focus. Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is common, as is symptomatic gastroesophageal reflux disease. Peptic ulcer disease occurs less frequently and with fewer complications. Gastroenterologists and obstetricians should be familiar with safe treatment options for these conditions, because they can profoundly impair the quality of life of pregnant women. During pregnancy, constipation can develop de novo, or chronic constipation can increase in severity. Given the array of therapies for constipation, physicians must apprise themselves of drugs that are safe for both mother and fetus. Management of acute, self-limited diarrhea should focus on supportive therapy, dietary changes and maintenance of hydration. Treatment of chronic diarrhea should be considered in the context of therapy for the underlying disorder. Inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome present a unique therapeutic challenge--to control the disease while minimizing toxicity to the fetus and mother. Initiation and alteration of medical therapy for gastrointestinal disorders during pregnancy must be undertaken after discussion with the patient's obstetrician.

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