Use of Drugs Known to Cause Fetal Harm Among Women Delivering Infants in Haiti

While only 25 percent of Haitian women deliver their babies in hospitals, some 52 percent go to a hospital after birth to get care or a birth certificate. This presented researchers an opportunity to study 482 Haitian women in two Port-au-Prince hospitals who had given birth over four months in 2008, which was before the devastating January 2010 earthquake.

Some 75 percent of women reported using at least one medicine during their pregnancy. Most commonly used drugs were amoxicillin (127 women or 26%), acetaminophen (109 women or 23%) and metronidazole (79 women or 16%). Some 61 women used two drugs labeled by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration as harmful during pregnancy: misoprostol (38 women or 8%) and tetracycline (12 women or 2.5%). These drugs were obtained most often from a pharmacy without a prescription or on the black market. Of the 47 women who used drugs to attempt an abortion, 81 percent used misoprostol.

The use of harmful medication while pregnant is more common in developing countries such as Haiti compared to reports from North America (13%), France (1–6%) and Canada (9%).

Culturally sensitive interventions and improved availability of family planning could reduce unwanted pregnancies and the use of harmful drugs during pregnancy.

[This research was not funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.]