(Date: November 2020. Version: 3)

This factsheet has been written for members of the public by the UK Teratology Information Service (UKTIS). UKTIS is a not-for-profit organisation funded by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on behalf of UK Health Departments. UKTIS has been providing scientific information to health care providers since 1983 on the effects that medicines, recreational drugs and chemicals may have on the developing baby during pregnancy.

What is it?

Acebutolol (Sectral®) is prescribed to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) and some heart conditions.

What are the benefits of taking acebutolol in pregnancy

Acebutolol reduces the risk of harm from high blood pressure and certain heart conditions. This is important as these conditions can get worse during pregnancy and may lead to complications.

Some women will be taking acebutolol before pregnancy; if so, it should be continued but reviewed at the earliest opportunity by your midwife, GP, cardiologist or obstetrician.

Are there any risks of taking acebutolol in pregnancy?

A small number of pregnant women specifically taking acebutolol have been studied and no concerns have been raised that its use causes harm. Acebutolol belongs to a large family of medicines called beta blockers. Reassuringly, there is no concern that beta blockers as a group cause birth defects, stillbirth, or preterm birth. Women taking beta blockers may be more likely to have a small baby. However, because a small baby can be due to underlying health conditions like high blood pressure, it is difficult to know if a beta blocker has also contributed to the baby being small.

Occasionally, beta blockers used in late pregnancy can affect the baby for a short while after birth (for example, causing low blood sugar). The baby may require an extra day or two in hospital following birth to look out for any problems. If these occur, they can be easily treated and usually settle quickly.

Are there any alternatives to taking acebutolol?

Possibly. Other medicines can be used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems. You should let your midwife, GP and/or obstetrician know that you are taking acebutolol so that it can be reviewed as soon as possible. If you have any questions about a medicine that you are offered in pregnancy you can discuss them with your doctor or midwife.

What if I prefer not to take medicines during pregnancy?

It is very important to take any medicines prescribed for high blood pressure or heart problems. High blood pressure can lead to a potentially serious condition called pre-eclampsia. Heart problems can also be dangerous to both mother and baby and must be as well-controlled as possible.

Your doctor will only prescribe medicines when absolutely necessary and will be happy to talk to you about any concerns that you might have.

Please do not stop acebutolol without speaking to your midwife, GP, cardiologist or obstetrician.

Will my baby need extra monitoring?

You will be offered a detailed scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy as part of your routine antenatal care. If you continue acebutolol then you may be offered additional scans at around 32 and 36 weeks to check that your baby is growing normally.

Are there any risks to my baby if the father has taken acebutolol?

We would not expect any increased risk to your baby if the father takes acebutolol.

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

If you have any questions about the information in this leaflet please discuss them with your health care provider. They can access more detailed medical and scientific information from

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General information 

Up to 1 out of every 5 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, and 1 in 40 babies are born with a birth defect. These are referred to as the background population risks.  They describe the chance of these events happening for any pregnancy before taking factors such as the mother’s health during pregnancy, her lifestyle, medicines she takes and the genetic make up of her and the baby’s father into account.

Medicines use in pregnancy

Most medicines used by the mother will cross the placenta and reach the baby. Sometimes this may have beneficial effects for the baby.  There are, however, some medicines that can harm a baby’s normal development.  How a medicine affects a baby may depend on the stage of pregnancy when the medicine is taken. If you are on regular medication you should discuss these effects with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant.

If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please ensure the doctor or health care professional treating you is aware of your pregnancy.

When deciding whether or not to use a medicine in pregnancy you need to weigh up how the medicine might improve your and/or your unborn baby’s health against any possible problems that the drug may cause. Our bumps leaflets are written to provide you with a summary of what is known about use of a specific medicine in pregnancy so that you can decide together with your health care provider what is best for you and your baby.   

Every pregnancy is unique. The decision to start, stop, continue or change a prescribed medicine before or during pregnancy should be made in consultation with your health care provider. It is very helpful if you can record all your medication taken in pregnancy in your hand held maternity records.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to replace the individual care and advice of your health care provider. New information is continually becoming available. Whilst every effort will be made to ensure that this information is accurate and up to date at the time of publication, we cannot cover every eventuality and the information providers cannot be held responsible for any adverse outcomes following decisions made on the basis of this information. We strongly advise that printouts should NOT be kept for any length of time, or for “future reference” as they can rapidly become out of date.

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