Are you sure about that drug?
Many pregnant women take drugs that are harmful to their baby and they don't even know it.
With the help of their doctors, women planning to become pregnant should take an inventory of the medications they take, researchers from Canada advise.

In a study, they found that many pregnant women still take medications long known to cause birth defects.

Some medications with known foetal risk, such as drugs that control epilepsy, are essential during pregnancy, Dr. Anick Berard, at the University of Montreal in Quebec, noted in an email correspondence to Reuters Health.

Other medications, such as those that treat severe acne, anxiety and psychiatric drugs, antibiotics, and many drugs prescribed for heart disease and medical conditions, "can and should be avoided," according to Berard.

Women should understand the side effects of any drug they are taking - especially drugs treating a chronic condition - and plan pregnancies to avoid or minimize risks such drugs pose to babies, Berard added.

For the 5 years between January 1998 and the last day of 2002, Berard and colleagues analysed the prescriptions filled by pregnant women for drugs available at the time and known to pose foetal risks.

Their report, in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, shows 56% of 109,344 pregnant women filled at least one medication prescription. A total of 6.3% (6,871 women) did so for at least one medication known to pose a risk to the foetus.

"These pregnancies were associated with an elevated number of (pregnancy terminations) and babies born with major (birth defects) in comparison with the expected numbers in the population," they note.

Specifically, terminations occurred in 47% of the pregnancies exposed to drugs with known foetal risks. 6% of these pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

By contrast, in the much larger non-exposed group about 36% of the pregnancies had been terminated and fewer than 5% ended in miscarriage.

Berard's team further identified birth defects in 8.2% of 2,842 infants exposed to risky drugs during gestation and available for assessment, compared with 7.1% of the 59,287 infants not exposed. This is "a statistically significant difference," they note.

They emphasize, however, that it cannot be concluded that the drug exposure caused the birth defects. These pregnancies may have also been exposed to other harmful agents or maternal health conditions, they point out.

The investigators call on doctors caring for women of childbearing age to conduct a thorough medication review prior to a planned pregnancy, or as soon as an unplanned pregnancy is recognized.

Are you still taking medication your not sure about?

Read Parent24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Everything from parties to pre-schools in your area.

Jobs - Find your dream job

Reporting Accountant

Cape Town
Network Finance Professional / Prudential
R310 000.00 - R360 000.00 Per Year

Java Developer

Network IT Recruitment
R450 000.00 - R500 000.00 Per Month

Financial Manager

Communicate Recruitment: Finance 3
R750 000.00 - R800 000.00 Per Month

Property - Find a new home