Co_OPT – assessing the safety of medicines taken during pregnancy

Half of women are prescribed medicines during pregnancy to prevent complications, but we don’t know enough about the safety and long-term health effects of many of these treatments for both mothers and babies. Our researchers are involved in an international collaboration that hopes to answer some of these questions.
  • Author's list

    Dr Sarah Stock, Professor Rebecca Reynolds, Dr Elizabeth Wastnedge

    Start date: April 2019
    End date: March 2021

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Ongoing projects

Why do we need this research?

Half of pregnant women are prescribed drugs during their pregnancy to prevent complications. However, we don’t know enough about the long-term effects of many of these medicines for both mother and baby. We need to understand more about the side effects of medicines that are given during pregnancy in order to safeguard the health of babies.

What’s happening in this project?

Researchers supported by Tommy’s are involved in a research collaboration called Co_OPT, which is bringing scientists together to study the long-term effects of medicines taken during pregnancy.

The Co_OPT collaboration will focus first on corticosteroids – drugs that are given to women at risk of preterm labour to help their baby’s lungs develop properly. Corticosteroids need to be given seven days before birth for them to work properly, but it can be difficult to predict when a woman is likely to go into labour and the drugs may be given unnecessarily or at an inappropriate time. We need to find out more about the consequences of corticosteroids being given at the wrong time.

Our researchers will work with scientists from across the world to gather data from previous studies of corticosteroids. Combined, these trials have information relating to 1.5 million women and their children – a huge amount of valuable data to study. The team will analyse the pooled data to understand the benefits and risks of corticosteroid use in pregnant women, including among those women who give birth at term or more than 7 days after treatment.

What difference will this project make?

This research project will help to answer questions about the safety and long-term effects of using corticosteroids to treat babies at risk of premature birth. The Co_OPT collaboration will then move on to investigate other medicines. Ultimately, this international project will help doctors maximise the health and wellbeing of both mother and baby.

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