Drugs in Pregnancy & Lactation - What is Safe and What is Harmful
During pregnancy, nutrients and oxygen pass from the mother to the fetus through a membrane called the placenta. Medication or tablets that the mother takes also reach the fetus through the placenta. Some drugs such as folic acid, iron and vitamins are important and should be taken by the mother during pregnancy. Some drugs may harm the fetus and lead to malformations. These drugs are called teratogens. Thalidomide is a well-known teratogen that caused fetal limbs malformations when taken by pregnant women for morning sickness in the 1960s. This and other similar events compelled authorities to take serious note of this issue and lay down strict regulations for drug use in pregnancy.
A similar situation occurs in nursing women. Drugs that a woman takes pass through breast milk and can affect the baby. Though malformations may not occur in the baby at this stage, various body functions could be affected.
Though a treating physician may understand and use drugs cautiously during pregnancy and lactation, a number of drugs are available freely over the counter. It is important for the patient to use minimal drugs during this period only after consultation with her physician or gynecologist.
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A woman’s body undergoes many hormonal and other changes during pregnancy, which alter the concentration of drugs in the body. The treating physician should be aware of this aspect as well since the levels of some drugs may need to be monitored and dose adjusted accordingly.
The best way to have a healthy pregnancy is to keep it as natural as possible. Simple measures and regular consults with the doctor can thus ensure a trouble free and enjoyable pregnancy and a healthy baby.