Improving Development of Drug Treatments for Pregnant Women and the Fetus

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Therapeutic innovation & regulatory science




Adverse event; Fetus; Pregnancy clinical trial; Safety; Therapeutics


The exclusion of pregnant populations, women of reproductive age, and the fetus from clinical trials of therapeutics is a major global public health issue. It is also a problem of inequity in medicines development, as pregnancy is a protected characteristic. The current regulatory requirements for drugs in pregnancy are being analyzed by a number of agencies worldwide. There has been considerable investment in developing expertise in pregnancy clinical trials (for the pregnant person and the fetus) such as the Obstetric-Fetal Pharmacology Research Centers funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Progress has also been made in how to define and grade clinical trial safety in pregnant women, the fetus, and neonate. Innovative methods to model human pregnancy physiology and pharmacology using computer simulations are also gaining interest. Novel ways to assess fetal well-being and placental function using magnetic resonance imaging, computerized cardiotocography, serum circulating fetoplacental proteins, and mRNA may permit better assessment of the safety and efficacy of interventions in the mother and fetus. The core outcomes in women's and newborn health initiative is facilitating the consistent reporting of data from pregnancy trials. Electronic medical records integrated with pharmacy services should improve the strength of pharmacoepidemiologic and pharmacovigilance studies. Incentives such as investigational plans and orphan disease designation have been taken up for obstetric, fetal, and neonatal diseases. This review describes the progress that is being made to better understand the extent of the problem and to develop applicable solutions.


Obstetrics and Gynecology