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7 Medications You Shouldn’t Take While Pregnant

by Staci Marks on April 11, 2012

Pregnancy is a difficult enough time as it is, dealing with constant cravings, back aches, a swelling tummy, and a nine-month vacation from alcohol and sushi. It can be overwhelming trying to identify all of the things you should and shouldn’t do while pregnant. With medications, however, pregnant women should not be in the dark as to the dangers prescription drugs can have on their unborn babies. The Food and Drug Administration has administered a ranking system for drugs to identify their potential interactions with pregnancy that range from A to X. Category A drugs are considered harmless, while category X drugs are known to cause serious birth defects or fetal death. To be certain their babies are born healthy, pregnant women should discuss any medications they take or may take during the duration of their pregnancy.

  1. Lexapro

    Some doctors claim that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may be okay for use during pregnancy, but the information on it is conflicting. For example, Lexapro is an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication ranked as “Category C” on the list of medications that interfere with pregnancy. The category C is meant to denote that it should only be prescribed to pregnant women if their doctors deem that the benefits of the medication for the mother outweigh the potential risks to the unborn fetus. However, further studies have shown that Lexapro has much more devastating effects on the fetus, such as heart defects, Spina Bifida, and Club Foot. The risk of miscarriage is also higher in those taking Lexapro while pregnant. Given that doctors did not effectively communicate the risks of Lexapro, lawsuits have developed left and right over distressed women who gave birth to malformed babies.

  2. Accutane

    Accutane is probably the most famous drug for combating acne. It is also a drug that should never be taken while pregnant, along with other brands of isotretinoin. However, according to Nancy S. Green, M.D., medical director of the March of Dimes, there have been at least 2,000 exposed pregnancies reported since this drug was introduced. Taking Accutane can cause crippling birth defects, including hydrocephaly (enlargement of the fluid-filled spaces in the brain), microcephaly (small head and brain), mental retardation, heart defects, ear and eye abnormalities, cleft lip and palate, and other facial abnormalities. Taking Accutane for even a short period of time during pregnancy or in the first stages, before women even realize they are pregnant, can still cause birth defects. To be safe, women who take Accutane should not even try to get pregnant until they have fully stopped using Accutane.

  3. Tetracycline

    Tetracycline is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections, such as urinary tract infections, acne, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Tetracycline shouldn’t be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding because doctors consider it a category D drug. While studies have not been conducted on humans for obvious reasons, animal studies show that using Tetracycline whilst pregnant can cause embryo toxicity and teratogenicity, as well as toxic effects on skeletal formation. Likewise, when used during the second half of pregnancy, while the embryo’s teeth are being developed, Tetracycline can cause permanent discoloration in the baby’s teeth or even enamel hypoplasia. While breastfeeding, Tetracycline is released via the milk, which could cause the infant to undergo dental staining and complicate bone growth, although the American Academy of Pediatrics has approved it for use during breastfeeding.

  4. Depakote

    Depakote is a medication prescribed to people with epilepsy for the prevention of seizures. In terms of potential pregnancy complications, Depakote is considered a category D drug and should only be administered in the lowest dose possible if the pregnant mother absolutely needs it. Depakote can cause complications throughout pregnancy, such as birth defects. Additionally, studies have shown that children born to mothers who took Depakote throughout pregnancy scored lower on cognitive functioning tests than their peers who were born in circumstances without the drug present. Unfortunately, epilepsy is not something that can go untreated, and pregnant women may be forced to continue the drug through pregnancy to allay the risks of potential seizures. Women who must continue the use of Depakote during pregnancy should be sure to get enough folic acid, which can help prevent some birth defects from occurring.

  5. Aspirin

    Most people pop Aspirin like candy when they have headaches, so you’d think an over-the-counter drug taken so commonly wouldn’t have terribly negative effects on the fetus during pregnancy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Aspirin should be avoided during pregnancy at all costs, as well as other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs along the lines of Advil and Ibuprofen. This is because, prior to birth, the baby gets its oxygen via blood from the placenta. Then at birth, a natural drop in the baby’s prostaglandin levels causes the baby’s circulatory system to redirect the blood flow to the lungs. Aspirin and other anti-inflammatories block prostaglandins. Thus, if a pregnant mother takes Aspirin, particularly after the 32-week marker, she could cause the baby’s blood flow to be channeled to the uterus. This could be lethal to the baby.

  6. Ribavirin

    Ribavirin is a category X drug, meaning it is virtually guaranteed to cause birth defects. Ribavirin is an antiviral drug used to treat chronic cases of Hepatitis C. In studies involving pregnant animals, Ribavirin caused many fetal birth defects or death. The animal fetuses in almost all cases were subject to embryo lethality and teratogenicity. Because of the high potential for complications, women are advised to wait six months after discontinuing Ribavirin to start trying to get pregnant. Men should do the same if they are on Ribavirin, as it can cause abnormalities in the sperm.

  7. Dalmane

    Dalmane is a medication used to treat insomnia, or sleeplessness, in patients. It is a category X drug as well, restricting any use of it during pregnancy to avoid nearly certain birth defects or fetal death. Dalmine is from a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. These are shown to have the same risks toward brain development in a fetus as PCP, barbiturates, and alcohol. The risks of mental retardation, ADHD, and other learning disabilities are high. Likewise, benzodiazepines are dangerous throughout the entire pregnancy, and are not considered more dangerous at any particular stage of development; all stages are at risk. The newborn may even show withdrawal symptoms from the Dalmane after birth. Using Dalmane during pregnancy would be foolish and cruel considering insomnia can also be treated with natural, harmless methods such as yoga and drinking herbal tea.

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