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Could the Medications You’re Taking Hurt Your Baby?

Pregnancy & Medications

I’m no expert in child birthing, and would love a “do-over” of my five pregnancies, but I’ve learned an awful lot in the 35 years since my oldest son was born. Fortunately for my kids, I was relatively healthy, and the food I ate wasn’t loaded with GMOs. I’m really grateful they didn’t push flu shots on us either!

Today, not all mothers are as fortunate. Many pregnant women are still unaware of the potential risks and dangers to their unborn children. No one’s told them the aspartame in their diet soda is a neurotoxin or that GMOs have been linked to Autism. Many may be uninformed of the adverse affects caused by the vaccines they’re encouraged to get while pregnant.

Many expectant mothers are also advised to take over-the-counter medications for colds or flu. Some are put on prescription medications for high blood pressure, depression or anxiety, or they have certain health conditions that require medications. But they have no idea that these drugs could cause miscarriage or birth defects.

According to the American Academy of Obstetrics & Gynecology,

“Some medications can cause birth defects. Tell anyone who prescribes drugs for you that you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant. That includes any health care providers you see for non-pregnancy problems, mental health providers, and your dentist. Do not stop taking a medicine prescribed for you without talking to your health care provider. Also, check with your health care provider before taking any over-the-counter drug, such as pain relievers, laxatives, cold or allergy remedies, vitamins, herbal products, and skin treatments.”

How do birth defects happen?

Birth defects are the leading cause of death in newborns and can happen in three ways:

  • They damage the fetus directly
  • They may cause damage to the placenta or umbilical cord, which leads to a birth defect
  • They can cause premature contractions, premature birth or miscarriage

Medications that Can Cause Birth Defects

Below is a list of medications that are labeled as teratogenic drugs (drugs that can cause birth defects). It’s important to remember that just because a drug is labeled OTC, that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Most OTC meds were once prescription medications. Consumer beware!

  • Ace Inhibitors (blood pressure medications)
  • Antibiotics (tetracylines, sulfa drugs, ciprofloxacin and some others)
  • Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers, anxiety medications, and some sleeping pills
  • Lithium
  • Warfarin
  • Some Anticonvulsant medication
  • Some birth control (Yaz)
  • NSAIDS (this can include aspirin and other salicylates)
  • Antidepressants (Paxil, Prozac)
  • Anti0cancer drugs (Bulsulfan, Chlorambucil, Cyclophosphamide, Mercaptopurine and Methotrexate)
  • Anti-seizure medications (Toprimate and Valproate)
  • Certain thyroid medications
  • Asthma medications
  • Live vaccines  – and I would add flu shots (live or inactivated) to the list.  See the links below to the FDA on several flu shots and what they say about “safety and effectiveness” in specific populations (pregnant women):

  Influenza Virus Vaccine: FluVirin 2013 – 2014 Formula

Sanofi Pasteur 271/371 Fluzone: Highlights of Prescribing Information

The FDA has assigned pregnancy categories for medications – they are Category A, B, C, D and Category X – which is the worst. You’ll find a full explanation of each category here.

There are many more things that can put your unborn child at risk. Excessive alcohol consumption, illegal street drugs and environmental toxins like organic solvents, mercury, pesticides, etc. Even some natural things can cause problems in a pregnancy. It’s smart to take caution and research everything you put in your body at all times.

Medications Deplete Nutrients

Besides being at risk for having a miscarriage or a baby born with birth defects – medications also deplete your body of essential nutrients. If you’re pregnant and on a medication it would be helpful to find out what nutrients you might be losing from the medications you’re on. Also, find out if these nutrient deficiencies are hindering your unborn child’s development.

Research & Ask Questions

If you’re taking medication and are planning to get pregnant or just found out you are, ask your pharmacist or doctor about your risk of miscarriage or birth defects.

Ask these questions:

  • Is it safe to my unborn child if I continue to take this medication while pregnant?
  • Is there a natural alternative or another drug that won’t put my child at risk?
  • How long will it take to clear my system before I can get pregnant? Some medications  stay in your system for a long time after you stop taking them (see the note on Accutane below).

Many women have been told a drug was okay to take in pregnancy only to find out later, that wasn’t the case, and it’s sadly too late.

Ask for the package insert on the medication – it should list all the risks, side effects, and contraindications. It should also let you know if studies have been done on pregnant animals and/or if they’ve ever been done on pregnant women. You may be surprised how many haven’t!

You can also go to the website of the specific drug or simply do a Google search. For example, I know that blood pressure medications may cause birth defects so I typed in “ace inhibitors and birth defects” and here’s what I got from WebMD…

There are plenty of resources available to help you – here’s a few more to get you started:

The information is out there, but you may have to hunt for it. Think about the times you’ve researched other things…a new cell phone, appliance, or a used car. Isn’t the health and well-being of your child even more important?

Having a baby is wonderful, but ensuring that your baby is healthy is another story. As parents, we have to question everything. Are the formulas, baby foods, insect repellents, lotions, wipes, or even diapers safe for my child? After all – it takes only 60 seconds for anything you put on your skin to enter your bloodstream!

Paying attention to these details is very important, but can also get very overwhelming. If you’re reading this and thinking about getting pregnant, here are some other things you can do:

  • If your diet has been less than stellar – start cleaning it up! Follow the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen and avoid pesticides, artificial ingredients and dyes. Especially avoid GMOs!
  • Get rid of your toxic deodorant and cosmetics, and replace them with natural make up and skin care products.
  • If you’re currently on a medication, find out if there’s another alternative (natural or Rx) you could take instead, and start transitioning to a safer option.

Work with a good natural healthcare practitioner, and/or mid-midwife who will support you through your pregnancy. Remember they work for you!

If you’re looking for natural products to take during pregnancy, you’ll find plenty in our pregnancy best-sellers! We’d love to hear the things you’ve done to have a healthy pregnancy! Tell us in the comments section below!

References and Resources:

Psychotropic medications can cause birth defects, study finds

The American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology FAQ

Definition of Teratogenic Drugs

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