Pregnancy & prescription drugs

Published: May. 6, 2013 at 7:01 PM EDT|Updated: May. 7, 2013 at 2:30 AM EDT
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(WFLX) - Statistics show about 90 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. take at least one medication, and 70 percent take at least one prescription drug.

Although some of those medicines are considered safe to take during pregnancy, the effects of other medications on your unborn baby aren't fully known. Information about it is all over the Web with many sites sending out conflicting information.

What's an expectant mom to do?

For example Bianca Holmes suffers from allergies, and needs medicine to help her through her worst days. But she's pregnant, and doesn't want what helps her to hurt her baby, so she goes to the Web for guidance.

Only problem is the answers are different all over the Internet. "The confusing and contradictory information leaves me kind of scared," she said.

She's smart to be scared. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found women are being misled by information on multiple Web sites. "We found 25 active Internet Web sites that post such lists of safe medicines to take during pregnancy. Few of those medications that were on those lists actually had data to back up their claims for safety," said Cheryl Broussard, of the CDC National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

One site we visited said a popular anti-histamine was safe to take during pregnancy while another site cautioned more research was still needed. That lack of research is a critical part of the CDC's findings.

Their study reviewed 245 products with 103 components that were listed as 'safe' on various sites. In 42-percent of the cases, researchers were unable to determine the risk to the unborn child. "It's not necessarily that the medicines on these lists are dangerous; it's that we don't know if they're safe or not," said Broussard.

"While we wish we knew the effect of certain medications on pregnant women, we really aren't able to do studies where we give half the women a certain medication and half the women a different medication to asses the safety," said Dr. Siobhan Dolan, the medical advisor to the March of Dimes.

The March of Dimes points out the confusion is compounded by the fact that certain drugs are safe only during certain times of the pregnancy. "Early in the pregnancy, when the fetus is developing organs, you want to stay away from certain medications that might interfere with development. But later in pregnancy, as you get closer to labor and delivery, you'll want to stay away from medications that may affect blood clotting," said Dolan.

The Food and Drug Administration estimates medicines taken during pregnancy result in 10 percent or more of birth defects. That's why the March of Dimes pushes pregnant women away from the Web. "Women are using these lists sometimes to bypass talking to a healthcare provider, and it's really important that they always consult with a health care provider to find out what's most important for them," said Broussard.

If you insist on turning to the Web, both the CDC and the March of Dimes suggest using the site

Bianca says, even though her medicine turned out to be safe, she intends to be extra careful about what she puts into her body over the next few months. "Everything that goes into me, it also affects the baby," said Holmes.

Another factor: In America, 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, and women may not even know to be avoiding the drugs. Even when they find out they are expecting, there are certain conditions that require medication, and physicians make it clear, in those cases, it's important to continue treatment. At that point, alternative medicines may be considered.

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