By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Women go through many changes as they get older but there is one area which can be affected that few people think of – the metabolism of drugs.

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Early in life, a woman’s metabolism is very similar to men. But as women go through menstruation and then start to develop, things happen. For instance, if a woman is pregnant, the metabolism of drugs can be be altered – sometimes dramatically.

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In addition to these changes, remember that the baby gets its nutrition from mom. If mom takes medications, they can have a harmful effect on the baby.

The variation in hormones can affect how medications interact in the body and this plays a role throughout life.

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After menopause, the glomerular filtration rate, the way we measure the clearance of drugs, can affect metabolism. Medications can stay in the system far longer than when a woman was in her younger years.