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Curr Drug Metab. 2009 Jun;10(5):520-9.

Variation of drug kinetics in pregnancy.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.


Significant changes in the physiological and biotransformation processes that govern pharmacokinetics occur during pregnancy. Consequently, the disposition of many medications is altered in gestation and the efficacy and toxicity of drugs used by pregnant women can be difficult to predict or can lead to serious side effects. Gastrointestinal absorption and bioavailability of drugs vary due to changes in gastric secretion and small intestine motility. Various pregnancy-related hemodynamic changes such as an increase in cardiac output, blood volume, the volume of distribution (Vd), renal perfusion and glomerular filtration may affect drug disposition and elimination, and can cause increase or decrease in the terminal elimination half-life of drugs. Changes in maternal drug biotransformation activity also contribute to alterations in pharmacokinetics of drugs taken in pregnancy. Therefore, pregnant women may require different dosing regimens or their adjustment than both men and non-pregnant women. In addition, the prenatal pharmacotherapy is unique due to the presence of feto-placental unit. Considerations regarding transplacental pharmacokinetics and safety for the developing fetus are thus essential aspects of medication in pregnancy. The aim of this review is to summarize major physiological and biotransformation changes associated with pregnancy that affect pharmacokinetics in pregnant women. In addition, we point out the most important examples of altered kinetics of drugs administered in pregnancy with mechanistic explanation of the phenomena based on maternal adaptation in pregnancy.

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