Birth Defects from Medication

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There is very little conclusive information about the effects of medications on unborn babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 91% of all medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the use of adults do not have sufficient data about the risks they may impose if used during pregnancy. You should always consult with your doctor before stopping or starting any medications while pregnant.

Although the relation between using medications while pregnant and birth defects is in need of additional research, there are some known concerns about certain medications. Perhaps the most commonly associated medication with the cause of birth defects is thalidomide which was sold from 1957-1962 and was used by pregnant women to combat morning sickness. The medication was quickly found to have caused limb deformities in babies.  While thalidomide is still used today for very specific medication conditions, it is not to be used by pregnant women.

One of the challenges of obtaining information on the effects of medications on unborn babies is that the FDA can’t test drugs on pregnant women. The main way the FDA obtains information on this matter is through pregnancy registries in which pregnant women who are taking medications sign up through the medication manufacturer. Each company will vary on the exact methods used to obtain information but in general, interviews are conducted with the pregnant women at various intervals throughout pregnancy and again after their babies are born.  For more information on the pregnancy exposure registries that are currently available click here.


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