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Planning Pregnancy May Cut Birth Defects
Date:4/8/2012

d eight, because that's when all of the organs are forming," Campbell said. "And, half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are still unplanned so women may not even know they're pregnant at this crucial time. We can't overemphasize enough the importance of planning your pregnancy."

Women with diabetes, women at risk for diabetes and women who have high blood pressure, seizure disorders, depression or autoimmune diseases who are on medications need to review these medications with their obstetricians, Campbell said.

"Where at all possible, switch to medications that are the least likely to cause birth defects," she suggested. "If medications can't be stopped, the pregnancy can be more closely monitored. What's important is that the mother is in the best shape possible. For example, you can't just stop seizure medications. A woman who's having seizures poses a risk to her fetus. It's important to weigh the relative risks and benefits with your obstetric care provider."

What are the risks? As Ashton explained:

  • Drugs that affect women's hormones can cause their babies to be born with problems with their genitalia.
  • Certain anti-seizure medications can cause heart defects, spina bifida and cleft lip.
  • Retinoic acid has been associated with a host of birth defects, including malformations of the face, heart and brain.
  • Some antidepressants have been linked to heart defects.
  • Cancer-fighting drugs, which target rapidly dividing cells, pose a significant risk for miscarriage as well as the potential for central nervous system and brain defects.

But, as scary as all that sounds, Ashton said, it's important to remember that even with exposure to drugs known to cause birth defects, most women will have a normal baby.

Still, medical experts agree that it's best to avoid medication exposure as much as possible during pregnancy.

"Anything you're going to take during pregnancy, you should chec
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