Of the 40,000 babies born every year in Singapore, about 860 – an average of more than two of the 110 births a day – have a serious birth defect. Worldwide, about 2% to 3% of babies born with birth defects are believed to be from drug exposure.
Thus it’s extremely important that you avoid any medications that aren’t absolutely essential during the first 8 to 10 weeks of your pregnancy. This is the time when your baby’s brain, heart, and lungs are developing – medication interactions could lead to defects in these areas.
If you must take medicines, then please avoid the following medications/ medical procedures. They can cause fetal abnormalities in your developing child.
- Aspirin: Used to treat migraines and headaches. Studies have linked aspirin to various pregnancy complications. A few studies show that taking aspirin around the time of conception and in early pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage. And some researchers believe that taking aspirin at adult doses during pregnancy might affect the baby’s growth and may slightly increase the risk of a placental abruption.
- Carbamazepine – Used to treat epilepsy. Some studies have shown that carbamazepine use in pregnancy may increase the risk of certain birth defects in the baby. However other studies have not agreed with these findings and further research is therefore required.
- Captopil (Capoten) – Used to treat high blood pressure. Limited data have shown an association between major congenital malformations and the use of Capoten during the first trimester..
- Ponstan: Used to treat migraines and headaches. This medicine is not recommended for use in pregnancy unless considered essential by your doctor.
- Prozac – Used to treat depression. Prozac is the brand name for fluoxetine, which is one of a group of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Taking SSRIs has been associated with premature birth and low birth weight, but experts aren’t certain about this.
- Roaccutane – Used to treat Acne. Your baby runs a very high risk of birth defects if you take Roaccutane during pregnancy, even if you take only a small amount for a short period of time. Birth defects associated with the drug include intellectual disability, various brain malformations, heart defects, and facial abnormalities.
- Synflex (Naproxen): Used to treat migraines and headaches. Synflex is not recommended for use in pregnancy unless considered essential by your doctor. This is particularly important in the first and third trimesters. If taken in the third trimester it may delay labour, increase the length of labour and cause complications in the newborn baby.
- Tetracycline – Tetracycline is an antibiotic used to treat conditions including acne and respiratory infections. If you take tetracycline after the fourth month of pregnancy, there is a risk for discoloration of the “baby” teeth. The discoloration of the baby teeth is due to calcification of the teeth.
- Thalidomide – Used to treat morning sickness. It is best to get your doctor to prescribe suitable morning sickness medication which is safe to take during pregnancy. Even better still, try one of these natural remedies for morning sickness.
- Large Doses of Vitamin A: Recommended dose during pregnancy is 8,000 IU per day. Large doses of Vitamin A can cause birth defects and liver toxicity.
- Warfarin – Used to thin the blood. A study of 58 pregnancies with 31 healthy babies revealed an increased incidence of complications at dosages greater than 5 mg daily.
- X-rays: Especially if exposure is above 5 Rad. Although the risk from diagnostic X-rays is low, experts often recommend that women postpone getting unnecessary X-rays until after giving birth.
At the end of the day, always remember that if you are pregnant, you should not take any form of medication without consulting with your doctor first.