Women who are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, have special concerns where prescription and over-the-counter medications are concerned. This, according to Marla Ahlgrimm, a retired pharmacist and expert in women’s health.
Overall, says Marla Ahlgrimm, the medical community knows very little about how most drugs affect pregnancy. This is mainly because most major drug studies don’t include pregnant women during market testing. Since 1980, less than 10% of all FDA-approved medicine has had enough information at public release to determine the risk of birth defects or pregnancy complications.
Once a medicine is available to the public, it can be further studied to determine any additional risks. Marla Ahlgrimm explains that certain drugs, such as isotretinoin and thalidomide, should be avoided by those planning to become pregnant in the near future. These and other medicines pose a risk of birth defects, developmental delays, premature birth, and pregnancy termination. A medication's safety is dependent upon a number of factors including dosage, pre-existing health conditions, other current medications, and stage of the pregnancy.
It is vital to the health of the baby that pregnant women maintain open line of communications with their healthcare team while pregnant. Some pregnant women that are under medical care for other conditions must continue to take their medicine throughout the pregnancy. Marla Ahlgrimm says conditions such as epilepsy, high blood pressure, asthma, and depression may pose a higher risk to the baby than the medicines used to treat them. Women who are concerned about the effect of the medication on the unborn child may discuss options with their doctor.
There is a wealth of information about this subject online, affirms Marla Ahlgrimm. However, she cautions that this material is simply a starting point to open up a conversation and does not substitute for the advice of a doctor or pharmacist. The US Food & Drug Administration regularly updates prescription and over-the-counter medication safety information. The FDA does not monitor “all natural” or herbal supplements as drugs or foods and does not require approval before these products are sold.
For more information on drug safety, visit the FDA’s website fda.gov.