While visiting my mom for the holidays last week, she was telling me stories about her pregnancy when I was still in the womb. Overall, she had a very normal experience, but one part of her story really caught my attention.

My mom has always had a serious kidney disease, and she even ended up getting a transplant a few years ago. During her pregnancy, she was forced to take a number of medications to regulate her body during my development, and one such medication was called methyldopa. Methyldopa is supposed to lower high blood pressure, which was essential to my health during my mom’s pregnancy. However, the doctors explained that there would be some interesting side effects. Though most side effects of medication during pregnancy are negative, the doctors told my mom that children whose mothers took methyldopa while in the womb tended to be smarter. It makes sense, since blood flow to the uterus is increased when high pressure is controlled. Since I have always been a straight-A student excelling beyond the abilities of my peers, I decided to look into this strange side effect.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any scientific evidence from recent studies that supported the claim. However, studies did suggest that babies exposed to methyldopa or similar medication labetalol in utero did not have any negative side effects associated with their neurological development.

While I doubt the doctors were lying to my mom as she began her blood pressure medication during pregnancy, there are no published studies making the same claims. More likely than not, the findings were from a few now outdated studies that did not take all control variables into account. For example, maybe babies born to mothers who were conscious of their own blood pressure were raised in more caring families. Whatever the cause for discrepancy, it makes me wonder how different beliefs surrounding medications and pregnancy were back when my generation was conceived. Luckily, I turned out okay.

If you need to take any medications for high blood pressure during your pregnancy, there is a very good chance the type your doctor recommends has absolutely no negative effect on your growing baby. Of course, no medication is always preferable, so you should discuss with your doctor whether or not it is absolutely necessary. In some cases, it’s better to wait until after the baby’s delivery to treat any minor hypertensive disorders.

Source: Wee Shian Chan et al: Neurocognitive Development of Children Following In-Utero Exposure to Labetalol for Maternal Hypertension. Hypertension in Pregnancy Volume 29 Issue 3 pp. 271-283 2010

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