Date: November 2021, Version 3

What is it?

Propranolol is mainly used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) and anxiety.


What are the benefits of taking propranolol in pregnancy?

Propranolol can prevent high blood pressure from getting worse during pregnancy and reduces the risk of complications. Propranolol is also an effective treatment for some people with anxiety and can therefore improve metal health and wellbeing.

Some women will be taking propranolol before pregnancy. If so, it can be continued but should be reviewed at the earliest opportunity by your midwife, GP or obstetrician.


Are there any risks of taking propranolol during pregnancy?

There are no concerns that taking propranolol in pregnancy causes harm. Propranolol belongs to a family of medicines called beta blockers. Studies have not shown that beta blockers cause birth defects, stillbirth or preterm birth. Women taking beta blockers may be more likely to have a small baby; however a small baby can be due to underlying health conditions that beta blockers are commonly used to treat, like high blood pressure. It is therefore 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 propranolol?

Possibly. Other medicines can be used to treat hypertension and anxiety in pregnancy. Anxiety can sometimes be treated with talking therapies instead of medicines; however this does not work for everyone and some people may need medication.

If your doctor has prescribed propranolol this will be based on factors including the likelihood of your condition not being as well-controlled with another medicine and possible side effects if your medicine is changed.

No treatment

What if I prefer not to take propranolol during pregnancy?

It is very important to take any medicines prescribed for high blood pressure as it can lead to a potentially serious pregnancy complication called pre-eclampsia. Anxiety also needs to be effectively treated to ensure a woman is well during pregnancy and while looking after her baby.

Your doctor will only prescribe medicines when absolutely necessary and will be happy to talk to you about any concerns that you might have. It is important not to stop or change any medicine that you are taking for high blood pressure or anxiety without first talking this through with your doctor.

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

We would not expect any increased risk to your baby if the father took propranolol before or around the time you became pregnant.

Will I or my baby need any 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 propranolol then you may be offered additional scans at around 32 and 36 weeks to check that your baby is growing normally.

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 (MyBump Portal) allows women who are currently pregnant to create a secure record of their pregnancy, collected through a series of questionnaires. You will be asked to enter information about your health, whether or not you take any medicines, your pregnancy outcome and your child's development. 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 the MyBump Portal to register.

General information
Sadly, miscarriage and birth defects can occur in any pregnancy.

Miscarriage occurs in about 1 in every 5 pregnancies, and 1 in every 40 babies are born with a birth defect. This is called the ‘background risk’ and happens whether medication is taken or not.

Most medicines cross the placenta and reach the baby. For many medications this is not a problem. However, some medicines can affect a baby’s growth and development.

If you take regular medication and are planning to conceive, you should discuss whether your medicine is safe to continue with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant. If you have an unplanned pregnancy while taking a medicine, you should tell your doctor as soon as possible.

If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please make sure that the person prescribing it knows that you are pregnant. If you have any concerns about a medicine, you can check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist.

Our Bumps information leaflets provide information about the effects of medicines in pregnancy so that you can decide, together with your healthcare provider, what is best for you and your baby.