Acute Poisoning During Pregnancy: Observations from the Toxicology Investigators Consortium

Irene Zelner, Jeremy Matlow, Janine R. Hutson, Paul Wax, Gideon Koren, Jeffrey Brent, Yaron Finkelstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Acute poisonings during pregnancy pose a particular challenge to health care providers because of the potential for an immediate life threat or possible life-long implications for both the mother and fetus, including teratogenicity of the poison or its antidote. We describe recent consequential exposures among pregnant women in the USA. We identified all poisoning cases involving pregnant women that were catalogued by the medical toxicology services across the 37 sites of the Toxicology Investigators Consortium (ToxIC) Registry of the American College of Medical Toxicology between January 2010 and December 2012. Of 17,529 exposure cases reported in the ToxIC Registry, 103 (0.6 %) involved pregnant women, 80 % of whom were symptomatic and about a quarter displayed a specific toxidrome. The majority of cases (n = 53; 51.5 %) involved intentional exposures, most commonly to pharmaceutical agents, followed by unintentional pharmaceutical exposures (10 %) and withdrawal syndromes (9 %). Non-opioid analgesics were the most common class of agents encountered (31 %), followed by sedative-hypnotics/muscle relaxants (18 %), opioids (17 %), anti-convulsants (10 %), and anti-depressants (10 %). Over a third of cases involved exposure to multiple substances, and 32 % involved exposure to more than one drug class. The most commonly administered antidotes were N-acetylcysteine (23 %), sodium bicarbonate (10 %), flumazenil (4 %), and physostigmine (4 %). About half of acute poisoning cases among pregnant women presenting for emergency care involved intentional exposures, mostly with over-the-counter analgesics and psychoactive medications. Clinicians should be cognizant of the unique circumstances, maternal and fetal risks, and management principles of the acutely poisoned pregnant woman.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-308
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Medical Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 27 2015


  • Emergency medicine
  • Poisoning
  • Pregnancy
  • Registry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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