Medication and Birth Defects

medicationThere are some things not to do while carrying that all pregnant women know about. Do not use drugs or alcohol, do not smoke, avoid certain types of food, and generally take care of yourself are common knowledge for a healthy and safe pregnancy. However, even this advice is not strong enough because there are some well-known medications that can also put an unborn baby at risk for birth defects and injury. Even when a medication has been identified as safe for use by pregnant women, it is imperative to ask a physician if that medication is entirely necessary. After all, it is not just the patient, but also the baby she is carrying who might be at risk for harm if the wrong medications are administered during fetal development.

The Biggest Threats

Among the most problematic medications are those used to treat anxiety and depression. The biggest group is the SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors that include such familiar names as:
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Lexapro
  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Symbyax
  • Zoloft
Even though they have been deemed acceptable, major studies show that they put babies at risk for such health concerns are cleft palate, persistent pulmonary hypertension of newborns, heart defect, spina bifida, lack of fusion in cranial bones, ear problems, and more. Sadly, there are many other drugs that will also put an unborn baby at risk for serious birth defects, and they include:
  • Seizure medications that lead to organ deformity, developmental delay, cleft palate, craniofacial defect, and hypoplasia.
  • Benzodiazepine drugs prescribed for anxiety, seizure, insomnia, and panic disorders, and which can cause babies to suffer with respiratory problems, lack of muscle control, and other issues.
  • Antibiotics that can lead to heart and eye defects, cleft palate, and malformation of the skull.
  • NSAIDs that are linked to limb deformities, neural tube problems and other concerns.
  • Accutane for acne treatments that has been linked to severe birth defects and death.

What to Do?

If you are pregnant and are frequently prescribed medications (with some studies saying that most people in the U.S. have at least one prescription medication, and almost as many have two), be sure your physician is aware you are pregnant. Also be sure to ask if the medications you are given are absolutely essential. While you may be someone who has long used anti-anxiety medications or and NSAID for swelling, it could be better to forgo such medications during pregnancy. Your doctors always have the legal obligation to be sure that your medications are not going to jeopardize your health or that of your unborn baby, but errors do happen every single day. Do not allow yourself to be included in the number of people whose baby suffered an avoidable birth defect or injury. As the CDC indicates, the, "Safety of most medications taken by pregnant women is unknown and dependent on many factors." Only by taking a full medical history and discussing every factor relating to your use of it can your physician understand the situation. If you are still unclear about the threats or risks posed to your baby through the continued use of such a drug, you can visit the US FDA website to research and learn more. Remember that birth defects and injuries can often be avoided. With a bit of knowledge around the risks your medications might pose to your unborn baby you can take steps to eliminate threats to their safety. Though mistakes happen, the use of harmful drugs during pregnancy is one of the easiest mistakes to avoid, but only if you have the knowledge necessary. Source:
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