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Metformin use in pregnancy: promises and uncertainties

Metformin has been prescribed in pregnancy for over 40 years; for much of this time, use has been limited both in numbers and geographically, and the evidence base has been confined to observational studies. In early years, perceived safety concerns and lack of availability of the drug in many countries acted as a barrier to use. More recently, RCTs have begun to examine the role of metformin in pregnancy in much-needed detail. However, this evidence base has been interpreted differently in different countries, leading to very wide variation in its current application in pregnancy. In this short review, we will discuss the history of metformin in pregnancy and highlight some of the key clinical trials. We will then consider some of the remaining controversies associated with metformin use in pregnancy, most important of these being the potential for long-term 'programming' effects on the fetus as a result of metformin being able to cross the placenta. We will also consider clinical situations where metformin might be avoided. Finally, we will discuss some future directions for this drug as it reaches its sixtieth anniversary.

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