Monday , 18 December 2017
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Birth Defects Caused by Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are at the forefront of news reports these days.  Whether it’s due to prescription drug abuse, addiction or a defect in a specific drug we are constantly hit with a barrage of stories on the subject.  The most shocking of these stories deals with drugs that are prescribed to help pregnant women which ultimately injure their unborn child.  This is truly the gravest injustice of all.

According to the March of Dimes, approximately 150,000 babies are born with birth defects annually in the United States. Birth defects are categorized as an abnormality of function, structure, or metabolism that is present at birth. Birth defects are the leading cause of death in newborns and can range from minor to serious. Over 4,000 types of birth defects are known, though some are more common than others. Birth defects often lead to mental or physical disabilities and are sometimes even fatal.

Causes of Birth Defects

Birth defects can be caused by genetic factors, the passing of flawed genetic material from mother or father to unborn child.  But, birth defects may also be caused by environmental hazards such as drugs and toxins.  These drugs and toxins can also have what is known as a teratogenic effect. A teratogen is any substance to which a pregnant female is exposed that may cause physical defects in the developing embryo or fetus and result in a birth defect.

Teratogenic medications can cause birth defects in three ways:

  1. Direct damage to the fetus;
  2. Damage to the placenta or umbilical cord; and
  3. Uterine contractions that can injure the fetus or cause premature delivery.

About 90 percent of all pregnant women use prescription or over-the-counter drugs at some point during their pregnancy. As many as one in ten birth defects are caused by using over the counter or prescription drugs during pregnancy.

Drugs that are known to cause birth defects:

  • Antibiotics: Tetracyclines, sulfa drugs, ciprofloxacin, and other antibiotics
  • Benzodiazepines: Tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety drugs
  • Accutane, Soriatane and related dermatological drugs
  • NSAIDS: Aspirin and other drugs in the same family can cause birth complications and birth defects when used late in pregnancy.
  • Antidepressants:
    • Paxil and Prozac
  • Anti-cancer drugs: Teratogens such as Bulsulfan, Chlorambucil, Cyclophosphamide, Mercaptopurine, and Methotrexate
  • Anti-seizure medications: Toprimate and Valproate
  • Certain thyroid medications
  • Sex hormones
  • Blood pressure drugs
  • Asthma medications
  • Live vaccines
  • Lithium
  • Thalidomide

Anticonvulsants, Antidepressants and Birth Defects

Numerous credible medical studies have indicated a potential connection between the use of anticonvulsant or antidepressant drugs and the development of severe birth defects.  Infants exposed to anticonvulsants and antidepressants in utero can manifest a number of deformities and health problems. These birth defects have the potential to cause long-term pain and suffering for an affected child, and sometimes even death.

Birth defects associated with anticonvulsant and antidepressants are:

  • Spina bifida
  • Cleft lip
  • Cleft palate
  • Hypoplasia
  • Neural tube birth defects
  • Developmental delay
  • Heart malformations
  • Growth retardation
  • Heart defects
  • Cleft lip
  • Cleft palate
  • Spina Bifida
  • Fetal Death
  • Neural tube birth defects

Anticonvulsant, Antidepressant Use and Pregnancy

Taking these anticonvulsant or antidepressant drugs during pregnancy may cause adverse side effects for infants.  In utero exposure to these drugs can affect the baby’s development and cause life-long medical problems. If you are currently taking one or more of these medications and you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consult your physician as soon as possible.


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