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Prescription Drugs

Prescription Drugs and Birth Defects

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 90% of women take at least one medication during pregnancy, and 70% take at least one prescription drug. Although many medicines are safe to use during pregnancy, some prescription drugs can cause serious or life-threatening birth defects. Yet, so many of the drug labels do not warn mothers of the dangers to their unborn babies. Because of this, most mothers are not aware of the fetal dangers resulting from use of the drug during or immediately before pregnancy and, thus, cannot take steps to prevent their infants’ injuries.

Prescription drugs that have been known to cause serious birth defects include:

Anti-convulsant medications:

Anti-depressants (SSRIs and NDRIs) including:


Safety First

Drug companies have a legal and ethical responsibility to manufacture and sell medications that are safe and to warn consumers about every side effect of each drug. Doctors should discuss all medications with patients who are expecting and ensure that they are only taking those drugs that are absolutely necessary. The effects of a prescription drug could depend on several factors including

  • How much medication was taken
  • When the medication was taken during (or before) the pregnancy
  • Other health conditions of the pregnant woman
  • Other medications the mother took

Pregnancy Risk Categories

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes prescription drugs based on the level of risk involved for the mother and the fetus. Most of the drugs listed above are either a Category C or Category D pregnancy drug, which means that the level of risk to a mother and her child is significant.

Responsibility of Drug Manufacturers

Pharmaceutical manufacturers have a duty to thoroughly research each drug for negative side effects and report all risks to users, doctors and the FDA. Failure to do so can result in patients or their children suffering serious harm, such as serious birth defects. The parents of a baby who has been injured may file a claim against the drug manufacturer for the harm and associated medical costs, as well as the physical and emotional pain and suffering.

Statistics Relating to Prescription Drug Use

  • The CDC estimates that in the last 30 years, the use of prescription drugs during the first trimester has increased by more than 60%.
  • A CDC study conducted between the years 1998 and 2005 shows that 4.5% of women reported using an anti-depressant three months before becoming pregnant or during the pregnancy. Specifically, use of selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) was reported most often (3.8%) followed by bupropion (0.7%), which is a norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI).
  • In four states, the frequency of reported antidepressant use during pregnancy increased from 2.5% in 1998 to 8.1% in 2005.


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