Taking Medication While Pregnant
Safe or Sorry?
Teratogens: The Tests of Time continued...
Experts also suggest that pregnant women stick to medicines
that have weathered the test of time and avoid those for which there isn't as
much data collected, such as some allergy medications recently introduced on
the market. Commonly used antihistamines like chlorpheniramine, for instance,
haven't been associated with a higher risk of birth defects.
"The Claritins, the Allegras -- the billion-dollar
blockbuster drugs you see on TV -- we just don't know much about them. They may
be safe during pregnancy; they may not," says Michael Zinaman, MD, a
reproductive endocrinologist at Loyola Medical Center in Chicago who counsels
patients on drugs to avoid during pregnancy.
Setting the Record Straight
In the 12 years that Filkins headed up the Pregnancy Safety
Hotline in Pittsburgh, she was struck by the misinformation and needless fear
reflected in many calls. One of the most common was from women who got pregnant
while on birth control pills and worried that their babies would be born with
VATER association, a series of limb and digestive defects.
"With the doses used today, it's not a very large concern,
yet there are so many women who are frightened, and even terminated their
pregnancies, because of older reports in the medical literature," Filkins
Another common confusion among pregnant women is exposure to
X-rays. "There's still much hysteria out there, even though they can be
lifesaving and the exposures from diagnostic X-rays rarely approach the 5 rad
range at which we begin to have some concern," Filkins says. The risks
really aren't suspect until 10 or 20 rads, she says.
Just as many medications may be safer than you think, some
popular remedies also may be more dangerous to use during pregnancy than people
think, says Filkins. For instance, popular megadose vitamins, which contain
high doses of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin, should be avoided, she
"There are people who feel that if a little bit of vitamins
is good, more is better, but many women may not realize that very high doses of
vitamin A found in the popular megadose vitamins could produce harmful
effects," Filkins says. Pregnant women should avoid taking more than 5,000
international units (IU) of vitamin A daily, the amount contained in prenatal
vitamins. Potential risks may occur at 25,000 IU or more.