Are Prescription Drugs Harmful To The Unborn Fetus ? -
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Are Prescription Drugs Harmful To The Unborn Fetus ?

Are Prescription Drugs Harmful To The Unborn Fetus ?

by: Dr. Monica Agarwal
Consultant Obstetrics & Gynecology - Paras Bliss, Panchkula

A prescription drug is a pharmaceutical drug that legally requires a medical prescription to be dispensed. Drugs, alcohol, recreation drugs, over the counter (OTC) medication are known to cause birth defects in the baby if taken during pregnancy. Drugs which cause birth defects are called “teratogens”. A teratogen interferes with the natural development of the fetus. Drugs taken during 15-21 days after fertilisation have all or no effect i.e. either killing the fetus or not affecting at all. Fetus is most vulnerable during the 3rd week to 8th week after fertilisation, which is the period of organogenesis.

Risk Factors that can harm the Fetus:

  • Type of drug
  • Dose
  • Frequency of medication
  • Stage of fetal development
  • Other associated factors

The risk of birth defects without any drug use is 3-4% i.e. if you strictly avoid drugs, then also you have a chance of having a baby with birth defect.

List of teratogenic drugs that should be avoided in Pregnancy:

  • Isotretinoin
  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Vitamin A
  • Lithium
  • Male and female hormones
  • Some antibiotics
  • Some anti epileptics
  • Cancer fighting drugs
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Warfarin
  • DES
  • Thalidomide

Classification of drugs pregnant women should be aware of:

  • Category A– Safe in pregnant woman without any risk of birth defect
  • Category B– Drugs which are taken by a limited number of pregnant women, hence data is lacking and animal studies have not shown any increased risk
  • Category C– Drugs may cause harm to fetus without birth defects which are reversible
  • Category D– May cause birth defects but health benefits outweigh the risks
  • Category X– High risk of birth defects and should not be taken during pregnancy

Some diseases in which medication is a must during pregnancy are epilepsy, high BP, diabetes, asthma, thyroid disease etc. In these situations if the woman stops drugs it will be a risk to her health.

Guidelines that pregnant women should follow:

  • Give proper and correct history to the doctor regarding your medication and supplements
  • Tell about any alcohol, smoking and illegal drug use
  • OTC drugs and herbal medication can also be harmful to the baby
  • Take counselling to stop addiction
  • Alter, stop or start any drug on recommendation of your doctor
  • Folic acid supplements are to be started prior to conception

Pregnancy is a special time when all that mother does also effects her baby so you have to be careful in using each and every product even beauty products as they also contain harmful chemicals. Read labels and stay away from any chemical item.

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