Birth Defects Prevention Month: Medications

Hale said it is important to tell your doctor medications you're taking early in pregnancy because most birth defect occur in the first trimester.

Hale said it is important to tell your doctor medications you're taking early in pregnancy because most birth defect occur in the first trimester.

More than four million babies are born each year in the Untied States. On average, three percent of those births will result in a birth defect ranging from minor to serious.

New mothers often worry about the effects medications can have on unborn children. Through years of research, many medications that cause severe birth defects have been identified and are avoided during pregnancy.

Thomas W. Hale, R.Ph., Ph.D., executive director of the InfantRisk Center, said there are fewer than 30 medications that cause severe birth defects.

“Accutane, alcohol, thalidomide and others can produce quite horrific birth defects,” Hale said. “We know which medications those are and we shy away from them.”

Most birth defects occur in the first trimester, which makes it important for women to be honest with physicians about medications they are taking before trying to conceive. However, physicians have learned that key factors to healthy babies are healthy mothers.

“A healthy woman makes a healthy baby,” Hale said. “Over the years, we’ve decided it’s best to keep moms healthy and treat their syndromes appropriately. As long as mom is healthy, she is going to make a healthy baby and not be so worried about many of these medications.”

Hale used depression as an example. He said depressed mothers have a higher risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery, and doctors now suggest moms treat their depression while pregnant knowing the risk of the medications are less than the risk of untreated depression.

“We get calls when mothers who refuse to tell their doctors what medications they are taking,” Hale said. “It’s important that the physician knows everything they are taking so they can make decisions on whether or not those are safe for the mother and their fetus.”

The InfantRisk Center serves as a resource to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers who have questions about medications. The call center is based solely on evidence-based medicine and research and provides the most current and accurate information possible. The InfantRisk Center also provides information to many health care providers.

Anyone with questions can call the InfantRisk Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday at (806) 352-2519.


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