During pregnancy, a woman’s body ideally becomes a safe haven for her unborn baby. For nine months, the choices she makes may have a significant impact on the health of her fetus. In addition to special dietary needs and lowering the body’s stress level while pregnant, an expectant mother must take extra precautions regarding which medication(s) she takes.
By simply educating herself, a mother-to-be can protect the health of her baby. While dietitians are available to help choose healthy foods and doctors can help regulate strenuous levels of activity throughout those critical months, it is key that a woman be well-informed about the risks that some medications may impose on her baby’s development.
Some of these dangerous medications are classified into five categories by the FDA; Categories A through D, as well as Category X.
“Controlled studies in women fail to demonstrate a risk to the fetus in the first trimester (and there is no evidence of a risk in later trimesters), and the possibility of fetal harm appears remote.”
In short and in theory, these drugs have been tested for safety during pregnancy and found safe.
Examples of Category A drugs are Folic acid and vitamin B, which have both, over the course of time and much usage, been found safe for pregnant mothers and fetuses. If you just can’t stomach spinach, beet roots or Brussels sprouts, these pills will help normal body functioning and prevent anemia.
“Either animal-reproduction studies have not demonstrated a fetal risk but there are no controlled studies in pregnant women, or animal-reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect (other than a decrease in fertility) that was not confirmed in controlled studies in women in the first trimester (and there is no evidence of a risk in later trimesters).”
In other words Category B drugs have been used during pregnancy for some time and do not appear to cause major problems.
“Either studies in animals have revealed adverse effects on the fetus (teratogenic or embryocidal or other) and there are no controlled studies in women, or studies in women and animals are not available. Drugs should be given only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.”
In short, these drugs may cause problems for you or your baby.
“There is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience or studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks.”
Category D drugs have clear health risks for mother or fetus.
“Studies in animals or human beings have demonstrated fetal abnormalities, or there is evidence of fetal risk based on human experience or both, and the risk of the use of the drug in pregnant women clearly outweighs any possible benefit. The drug is contraindicated in women who are or may become pregnant.”
Category X drugs should never be taken during pregnancy. These are drugs where the risk to the baby obviously outweighs any possible benefit of the drug.
One well-known example is acne medication Accutane (isotretinoin), which is can cause auditory and visual impairments, plus mental retardation. Sedative Thalomid (thalidomide) infamously caused severe birth defects when used to treat nausea during pregnancy.
In order to decide whether or not the risk is worth taking, check which category the FDA has given to the medication you are inquiring about.
This information was compiled from the Drug Information & Side Effect Database.