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Maternal-fetal research, i.e., research intended to benefit pregnant women and/or their fetuses, must balance the health and safety of the woman who participates and the well-being of the fetus with the desire to develop new and innovative therapies. One challenge in such research is that pregnant women may face external pressure or expectations to enroll from partners, family members, or others that may compromise their ability to make a fully voluntary decision about whether to participate.

Physicians engaged in maternal-fetal research should demonstrate the same care and concern for the pregnant woman and fetus that they would in providing clinical care. 

In addition to adhering to general guidelines for the ethical conduct of research and applicable law, physicians who are involved in maternal-fetal research should: 

  1. Base studies on scientifically sound clinical research with animals and nongravid human participants that has been carried out prior to conducting maternal-fetal research whenever possible. 
  2. Enroll a pregnant woman in maternal-fetal research only when there is no simpler, safer intervention available to promote the well-being of the woman or fetus. 
  3. Obtain the informed, voluntary consent of the pregnant woman. 
  4. Minimize risks to the fetus to the greatest extent possible, especially when the intervention under study is intended primarily to benefit the pregnant woman. 
AMA Principles of Medical Ethics: I, III, V
Read the Principles

Council Reports