Many health studies exclude pregnant women for safety reasons, but a Kiwi expert says that needs to change.
In an article published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, University of Otago medical ethics lecturer Angela Ballantyne says pregnant women are being done a disservice by being kept out of research.
Dr Ballantyne said clinical research was very limited when it came to pregnancy and usually limited to obstetric practice and foetal safety, despite the benefits studies could have on health outcomes.
"We must remember that pregnancy is not simply a nine-month window. It is a crucial period affecting the long-term health of the future person," she said.
A lack of guidelines in New Zealand and thinking that pregnant women were vulnerable had led to the lack of information in areas such as mental health, asthma and oral health, she said.
"Due to a lack of evidence-based data, many pregnant women are refused medically important drugs, are subject to dangerous delays in getting drugs, or are prescribed drugs that are thought `safe'.
Dr Ballantyne said rules needed to be set up to ensure pregnant women were still being looked after properly in studies but were being included by default.
"Exclusion from research is not a simple answer to supposed vulnerability. Protective policies may have been motivated by concerns for the wellbeing of pregnant women and their foetuses, but the effect is unjust," she said.