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Antipsychotics in pregnancy


K. McCauley-Elsom
School of Nursing and Midwifery
Peninsula Campus
Monash University
McMahon's Road
Vic. 3199


Accessible summary

  • • This article summarizes the literature relating to the use of antipsychotics in pregnancy with a focus on the most commonly used atypical antipsychotics.
  • • Discusses other key factors to be considered when using these medications in pregnant or lactating women.
  • • Recognizes the contribution of pregnancy registers in gathering data to provide guidance to clinicians about the psychopharmacological management of women with serious mental illness.


Women who are pregnant and who have a history of psychosis are commonly managed with antipsychotic medications. The evidence regarding the use of antipsychotics in pregnancy has been insufficient to provide adequate support for this practice and is a concern for clinicians and women alike. This review presents literature surrounding the use of antipsychotic medications in pregnancy, providing an overview of the historical and contemporary perspectives which influence clinicians prescribing practices. Data were sourced from Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFo, using the terms antipsychotics with pregnancy and psychosis or schizophrenia. This was expanded to include the most common atypical antipsychotics: olanzapine, risperidone, clozapine, quetiapine, ziprasidone and aripiprazole. Literature was found reporting the use of antipsychotic medications in pregnancy since the introduction of antipsychotics in the 1950s, comprising mainly of authors' reviews of the literature, case studies, retrospective reports, drug company registries and more recently a prospective comparative study. This review identifies that the literature provides no clear answer for clinicians as to the risk associated with the use of antipsychotics in pregnancy. To this effect, recently in Australia, the National Register of Antipsychotic Medications in Pregnancy was established to prospectively collect information regarding outcomes for mother and baby, when antipsychotic medications have been used during pregnancy.