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Health & Pregnancy

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Drug Use and Pregnancy

Why is caffeine considered a "drug" during pregnancy?

Caffeine is legal and prevalent in foods such as chocolate and drinks such as coffee and sodas. But experts claim it's still a drug and should be limited. Caffeine has been a controversial subject in FDA guidelines. In the early 1980's, the FDA released a study that stated caffeine use had toxic results in studies of rats. However, this warning has since been loosened a bit.

Pregnant women who need caffeine should regulate it. It can cause low birth weight and irritability if taken in large quantities.

Are prescription drugs harmful to the unborn fetus?

They might be. It's necessary to monitor intake of prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) medications if you are pregnant. However, because it's unethical to test drugs on pregnant women, the effects of many drugs during pregnancy simply aren't known.

Pharmaceutical companies are required to report any problems with medications to the FDA. You and your doctor can also report problems with a medication to the FDA. The FDA has guidelines for drug companies to follow in labeling medications about their effect on pregnancy and the growing fetus. By reading the product information, you can learn more about how the medication may affect your pregnancy.

The FDA requires drug companies to conduct special studies called pregnancy registries. Women who take a certain medication may enroll in the study. After delivery, their babies are compared to babies of moms who didn't take the medication during pregnancy. When the data is compiled, these studies can help agencies monitor the effects of medications after they are made available.

Some women must take drugs during pregnancy. They may need to take them for pain or for a serious condition such as asthma, epilepsy, hypertension or depression. If you are concerned about using a prescription or over-the-counter medication during pregnancy, talk with your doctor and get more information about the drug's safety.

How many pregnant women abuse drugs each year?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 5.4 percent of pregnant women between ages 18-44 had used alcohol during their first trimester, 4.8 percent in their second trimester, and 2.4 percent in the last trimester of pregnancy. Similar numbers were seen with marijuana, cigarette, and binge alcohol use.

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