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Pregnancy and Medications

Pregnancy and Medications

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While most prescription and over-the-counter medications are not passed to the fetus, certain drugs can enter the fetus and cause birth defects or other complications. Contrary to what many people think, the most important stage of development is during the first few weeks after conception. If you are taking prescription medications and find that you are pregnant, don't panic. You should, however, schedule an appointment right away with your health care provider to discuss the risks of continuing the medicine.

The FDA divides medications into five categories: A, B, C, D and X. Category A contains the drugs that have been found to be safe, such as folic acid (which is actually needed by women at the time of conception and pregnancy), thyroid medication and vitamin B6. Category B contains drugs that haven't been shown to cause major birth defects or other problems in pregnancy. Some antibiotics, Tylenol, insulin, and artificial sweeteners fall into this category.

Drugs that have a higher risk of causing problems during pregnancy to the mother or baby are in Category C. These drugs also include medications that haven't been tested yet, such as a number of antidepressants, Sudafed, and prochlorperzaine. Category D is for drugs that have recognized risks: alcohol, chemotherapy drugs, and stronger antidepressants. The category X drugs can't be taken safely during pregnancy, and should be avoided. These include sedatives, Accutane for acne, and certain psoriasis drugs.

Be careful of herbal supplements just because they are natural doesn't mean that they are safe! A lot of labels will claim that the ingredients are thought to be safe during pregnancy, because they haven't been proven to harm the fetus. It's better to be cautious and avoid taking the medication altogether, as these drugs aren't regulated and could have side effects that are not yet known.

The best way to minimize risks to your baby is to let your physician know about any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking at the time of conception. You and your health care provider can discuss alternative options for treatment of your condition if needed. In some cases, your doctor will advise you to continue treatment, even if the drugs fall into category C or D. For instance, most doctors will recommend that you keep taking chemotherapy drugs for cancer if your life is at risk, even though it could have an effect on your baby.




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