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Dangerous drugs for your unborn children
21 December 2016
Preparations for youth
Dangerous drugs for your unborn children

Let's talk about the hidden dangers of drugs which might affect any woman. In the event of an unplanned pregnancy even “harmless” drugs can be teratogenic and cause congenital malformations and deformities in foetus. You should be aware of this.

The fate of many families would not be so tragic if doctors did not forget to warn them of the teratogenic effects of prescribed drugs. Remember: before taking any medication, it is important to read the instructions carefully and check the medical research available. This way you will protect your life as well as your future children’s health.

The teratogenic effect of drugs —from the Greek Τέρας (“monster”) and Γεννάω (“I give birth”)— is the ability to cause the development of congenital malformations.

There are many teratogenic drugs that cause anomalies and malformations of the embryo. As a rule, gynecologists are well aware of these drugs and do not prescribe them during pregnancy. However, these drugs are often used to treat a wide range of diseases in women of reproductive age. If a woman becomes pregnant over the course of treatment, the consequences can be dire.

Retrospective studies show that some doctors prescribe teratogenic drugs to treat acne, psoriasis, hypertension and epilepsy, and they do not draw their female patients’ attention to possible side effects. We hope that soon there will be a general list of teratogenic drugs available to both medical specialists and patients.

Recently, a US medical centre conducted a study of track records for prescription of pharmaceutical teratogens of category D or X (most teratogenic) to young non-pregnant women (14–25 years old) between 2008 and 2012. A retrospective review of prescriptions showed that 1,694 young women received 4,506 prescriptions of teratogenic drugs of dangerous categories. Only 26.6% of these patients were informed of the possible risks and received recommendations to use contraception during treatment. The rest remained in dangerous ignorance.

The most common drugs in the study were topiramate (epilepsy), methotrexate (severe forms of psoriasis), diazepam (anxiety), isotretinoin (acne) and enalapril (hypertension). Most of these medications are prescribed to treat the most common diseases in adolescence (acne and psoriasis) in addition to epilepsy and anxiety. Recent publications have reported an increase in the number of newborns with abnormal development born to young mothers suffering from acne, psoriasis, epilepsy or anxiety disorders and who became pregnant while taking these drugs. Not all cases of congenital malformations after the use of these drugs are recorded; many young mothers forget or do not know about the dangerous effects of their treatment before pregnancy. They do not associate their children’s developmental disorders with their treatment.

Consequently, when prescribing a teratogenic drug, it is extremely important to warn women of reproductive age of the possible consequences and to recommend the use of contraceptives during treatment.

To make doctors’ work easier, it is a good idea to follow a pharmacogenetics programme which will warn of side effects and advise on alternative medications with the same pharmacological action. If there is no safe alternative, it would be wise to use effective contraception to avoid pregnancy during treatment.

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