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Can prescription drugs cause birth problems?

If you take prescription medication and are thinking of getting pregnant or are already pregnant, you should be aware of the potential health effect on your baby. Some drugs are known to cause serious health issues in unborn children, and these issues may lead to lasting complications and may even result in loss of life. March of Dimes offers the following information on prescription drugs and pregnancy, so you can take the proper steps to protect yourself and your child.

The first step is to speak with your medical provider. While you may need to be weaned, you shouldn’t stop taking medication without a doctor’s consultation, especially if it’s being used to control a serious condition. The effects of stopping suddenly could also be dangerous and your health care staff may need to provide a replacement to prevent adverse effects from occurring.

While every woman will respond differently there are many different medications that are thought to contribute to birth defects. These include painkillers, anti-depressants, blood thinners, and opioids. Birth defects can also vary depending on the drug taken. For instance, some drugs cause low birth weight while others may cause a baby to be born prematurely. Premature births are those that occur prior to week 37. Birth defects can also occur, and these can impact the function and development of different parts of the body. 

Certain drugs may also trigger withdrawal effects in your newborn. This is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome and it commonly happens when a pregnant woman takes opiates or other habit-forming drugs. In severe cases, a woman may experience a miscarriage or stillbirth. Certain drugs are also linked to a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). 

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