(Date: September 2022. 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.

Quick read

Atropine use may occasionally be advised in pregnancy and is unlikely to harm the baby.

What is it?

Atropine is used to increase a dangerously slow heart rate. Atropine is also used as an antidote to reverse the effects of certain poisons and can prevent life-threatening toxic effects. It is sometimes used in eye drop form to treat inflammation of parts of the eye, and during eye examinations to dilate (widen) the pupils. Atropine can also reduce excess saliva and is occasionally used to treat some bowel disorders.

What are the benefits of taking atropine in pregnancy?

Atropine use may be advised for some potentially serious conditions, for example, if the heart is beating too slowly, or to reverse the effects of a poison. In these cases, the benefits to both woman and baby of ensuring the woman remains well are likely to outweigh any possible risks.

An eye examination using atropine eye drops may be required to prevent complications that could damage the sight. When atropine is used in this way, only a tiny amount will reach the baby.

Are there any risks of taking atropine during pregnancy?

There are no concerns that atropine causes birth defects in the baby. Other possible effects have not been well-studied.

Are there any alternatives to taking atropine?

Possibly. There may be other medications that can be used depending on the specific circumstances. When a particular medicine is being offered, a doctor will be able to explain why it is the best choice.

What if I prefer not to take atropine during pregnancy?

Atropine will only be offered in pregnancy if the benefits of use outweigh the possible risks. A doctor or specialist will be happy to discuss this.

Will I or my baby need extra monitoring during pregnancy?

All pregnant women in the UK will be offered a very detailed scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy as part of their routine antenatal care. Using atropine in pregnancy is not expected to cause problems that would require any extra monitoring of the baby prior to birth.

Are there any risks to my baby if the father takes atropine?

We would not expect any increased risk to the baby if the father took atropine around the time of conception.

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

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

How can I help to improve drug safety information for pregnant women in the future?

Our online reporting system allows women with a current or previous pregnancy to create a digitally secure ‘my bumps record’. You will be asked to enter information about your health, whether or not you take any medicines, and your pregnancy outcome. You can update your details at any time during pregnancy or afterwards. This information will help us better understand how medicines affect the health of pregnant women and their babies. Please visit to register.

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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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