Managing fertile women under lithium treatment: The challenge of a Teratology Information Service

Caterina Neri, Carmen De Luca, Luisa D'oria, Angelo Licameli, Marta Nucci, Marcella Pellegrino, Alessandro Caruso, Marco De Santis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The objective of the present study is to review the literature regarding the management of fertile patients under lithium treatment for bipolar disorder and to report the experience of our Teratology Information Service over the past thirteen years in managing women treated with lithium during preconception, pregnancy and breastfeeding. METHODS: This research focuses on a selective review of the literature and a retrospective survey has been carried out on fertile women under lithium treatment who called our service at A. Gemelli University Hospital in Rome from May 2002 to December 2015. RESULTS: A total of 140 women under lithium treatment called our TIS. A complete follow-up has been performed on 34 patients: 29 called during pregnancy and 5 called during preconception. None of the patients called during breastfeeding, while half of the patients were taking concomitant drugs during pregnancy. One major cardiac malformation (hypoplastic left heart syndrome) has been reported. No minor malformations have been detected. Twenty-one patients delivered a living child, with one premature neonate. Two patients underwent voluntary interruption of pregnancy and six patients had early spontaneous abortion. In one patient, intrauterine growth retardation occurred, but with no adverse neonatal outcomes. Four neonates experienced transient respiratory distress at birth. Two children developed mild to severe language delay, but normal motor development. CONCLUSIONS: Lithium treatment in fertile women is a very delicate topic, where risks and benefits of discontinuing therapy when women plan to become pregnant should be accurately evaluated. Thorough peri-conceptional counselling is crucial for the outcome of pregnancy and for maternal health status during preconception, gestation and breastfeeding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-267
Number of pages7
JournalMinerva Ginecologica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Lithium
  • Preconception care
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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