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When medicine does more harm than good for newborns

If you look at the label on almost any medication, you will see instructions for pregnant to consult with their doctor or health care professional prior to using. Many of us are aware of a handful of drugs that can result in serious injuries for newborn infants. Recently the FDA has warned about the use of drugs including Topamax, Tylenol with codeine (the non-codeine variety is considered safe by most experts) and Haldol.

Keeping up with the medical news is simply par for the course for many pregnant women, but this can become more complicated as most prescription medications simply have not been subjected to large scale tests in pregnant women. The reason for this is obvious; it is generally not ethical to subject pregnant women and their unborn infants to the types of controlled drugs tests necessary to test the drugs.

This of course creates a problem because many pregnant women have little choice but to take medications at some point. Some conditions such as asthma, epilepsy and other medical conditions simply cannot reasonably go untreated for nine months. Additionally, some drugs pose the highest risk during the crucial first months of development while many women may not even realize that they are pregnant.

The FDA does have a rating system which identifies drugs that are most and least likely to pose a serious risk based on the knowledge available. But this still leaves women and doctors with a quite a bit of uncertainty. Seemingly the most promising development has been a campaign by the FDA to encourage drug makers to create registries to track the health effects for pregnant women who do decide to use a medication during pregnancy.

There are currently about 40 such registries which are active, some have already provided notice to the FDA about dangers of fetal abnormalities.

Source: Wall Street Journal "Can Mom's Medicine Hurt the Baby?" March 29, 2011

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