Date: March 2020, Version 3

What is it?

Timolol is prescribed in eye drop form to treat glaucoma.


What are the benefits of using timolol in pregnancy?

Use of timolol eye drops can help to prevent sight problems (including blindness) in people with glaucoma.


Are there any risks of using timolol during pregnancy?

Timolol in eyedrop form enters the woman’s bloodstream in small amounts. Only a handful of pregnant women specifically using timolol have been studied, but overall there is no concern that its use causes problems.

Timolol 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 in tablet form 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 taken in tablet form 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.

While it is unlikely that the small amount of timolol reaching the baby from eye drops would have an effect, it is still sensible to try and minimise the amount entering the bloodstream. To do this, apply the drops and close the eyes for one to two minutes, or press the fingertips to the inner corners of the eyes for at least one minute.


Are there any alternatives to using timolol?

Possibly. Other medicines can be used to treat glaucoma. You should let your midwife, GP obstetrician or eye specialist know that you are taking timolol 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 should discuss them with your doctor or midwife.

No treatment

What if I prefer not to take medicines during pregnancy?

It very important that glaucoma continues to be appropriately treated during pregnancy as stopping treatment can cause irreversible sight damage. Your doctor will only prescribe medicines when absolutely necessary and will be happy to talk to you about any concerns that you might have.

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. No further monitoring will usually be necessary following use of timolol eye drops.

Are there any risks to my baby if the father uses timolol?

We would not expect any increased risk to your baby if the father uses timolol.

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 www.uktis.org.

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.