Methyldopa for chronic hypertension during pregnancy


Generic Name

Methyldopa reduces high blood pressure (hypertension). It is given as tablets or liquid (orally) or through a vein (intravenously, or IV).

How It Works

Methyldopa affects the nerves that relax the walls of blood vessels, causing the blood vessels to widen (dilate) and thus reducing blood pressure.

Why It Is Used

Methyldopa is used to help control blood pressure in chronic hypertension during pregnancy. Other medicines may be added for blood pressure control, if needed.

Methyldopa is not used in women who have liver or kidney disease.

How Well It Works

Methyldopa is usually effective for the control of chronic hypertension during pregnancy.1

Side Effects

The side effects of methyldopa are usually mild and may include:

  • Sleepiness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Weakness when treatment first begins.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Swelling of the feet and legs and weight gain caused by fluid retention (edema).
  • Slow heart rate (bradycardia).
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Constipation.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Headache, dizziness, or lightheadedness.
  • Blood abnormalities (rare).

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Methyldopa is generally considered safe for use during pregnancy.

Methyldopa is most often used in its oral form for the treatment of high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Methyldopa does not begin lowering blood pressure until 4 to 6 hours after it is taken. So it is not a good choice when blood pressure needs to be lowered quickly.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Magee LA (2001). Antihypertensives. Best Practice and Research: Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 15(6): 827–845.

Last Updated: November 14, 2008

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.